Currently, there are heated discussions and disagreements going on throughout the country on the right to free speech. There are football players who refuse to stand for the national anthem, KKK assemblies in town squares, anti-KKK assemblies standing just outside of the town square, and people shouting down or prohibiting speakers from their engagements at various universities. There are so many erroneous free speech posts on the internet about what is correct, what is disrespectful, and what is flat out wrong. I figured it was time to make sure I knew what the First Amendment regarding the freedom of speech really is, and that I would become more deliberate in my defense of what free speech is and is not.

First I took a quiz here. I found out I know most forms of protected free speech, but there were nuances that I did not know. Then, using other references as well, I outlined this list regarding the First Amendment, specifically on free speech:

  • Indecent speech, four-letter words, and nudity are all protected. Obscene speech is not protected and the law defines what obscene speech is.
  • The First Amendment doesn’t allow for copyright infringement, but it can protect me even if I am lying. Although I cannot advertise using language that is false or misleading.
  • Burning a flag is protected free speech.
  • The First Amendment only prohibits a government official from restricting free speech – anyone else can prevent you from speaking.
  • A public school cannot institute a “speech” code of conduct.
  • You can use hate speech, demean someone about their religion, and use profanity, but you can’t demean them.
  • There is a category under the law called “unprotected free speech” which includes inciting violence, lawless criminal action, and threats to national security. This means I have zero protection under the law for this type of speech.
  • Song lyrics are protected. But the airtime for those songs can be determined by the FCC.

Basically, it boils down to this. I can say most anything – but there isn’t a requirement for anyone to listen, or drown me out with their own free speech. Unless you work for the government.


Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

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