Presentation on theme: "Civil Liberties POLS 21: The American Political System “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty."— Presentation transcript:
Civil Liberties POLS 21: The American Political System “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” —Benjamin Franklin
The First Amendment Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. What is “speech?” How far does “freedom” extend? To whom does this protection extend?
What is “Speech”? The First Amendment protects more than pure speech. It also protects “symbolic speech”— conduct that expresses an opinion.
What is “Speech”? According to a law proposed by one Florida legislator, people who wear low-rise jeans that expose skin or other “intimate clothing” should be fined and possibly sent to jail. Can a person’s choice of clothing be protected under the First Amendment? What about school dress codes? In Louisiana, several parents sued their local school board in Federal District Court. They claimed that the dress code violated their children's right to free speech. What about students who wear outspoken clothing to school? In 2003, a Michigan teenager was sent home for wearing a T-shirt showing a picture of President Bush, with the caption “International Terrorist” underneath. The First Amendment protects more than pure speech. It also protects “symbolic speech”— conduct that expresses an opinion.
Schools and Free Speech In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), the Supreme Court ruled that school officials cannot suppress student expression of political views unless they can show that such expression would “substantially interfere with the work of the school or impinge upon the rights of other students.” Free speech can be limited, however, if it is lewd, obscene, or otherwise offensive. For example, in Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser (1986), the Supreme Court upheld the suspension of a student who had given a speech with sexually suggestive metaphors at a school assembly. Officials found that the speech was not appropriate for a student audience. Finally, in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988), the Supreme Court upheld school officials' censorship of articles written by students for an official school newspaper about pregnancy and the impact of divorce on teenagers citing “legitimate pedagogical concerns.” Since low-ride jeans and school dress codes do not raise any of these concerns, those policies—as silly as they may seem—are not barred by the Constitution. Source: The American School Board Journal, July 2001 While clothing worn for the expression of opinions is generally protected by the courts, the law also recognize that school boards sometimes have their own legitimate interests in regulating student conduct that outweigh an individual student’s right to free speech. In balancing a student’s right to free speech against a school’s right to maintain order, there are several considerations:
How Far Does “Freedom Extend”? Commercial speech Defamation (e.g., libel and slander) Obscenity Fighting words (e.g., those which incite a hostile reaction) Clear and present danger (e.g., shouting fire in a crowded theater) Sedition (e.g., threat to overthrow the government) Does the First Amendment grant unlimited freedom of speech and expression? No! Today, limitations on free speech fall into several broad categories—
Do Americans Support First Amendment Rights? In 1955, substantial majorities of those polled said that an admitted Communist should not be permitted to: Speak publicly; Teach in high schools or colleges; Work as a clerk in a store; Majorities also agreed that Communists should: Have their citizenships revoked; That books written by Communists should be taken out of public libraries; That government should be allowed to tap personal telephone conversations to gather information against suspected Communists; That admitted Communists should be thrown in jail;
Public Support of Free Speech Members of the _________ should be banned from being President of the United States; Members of the _________ should be allowed to teach in the public schools; The __________ should be outlawed; Members of the _________ should be allowed to make a speech in this city; The __________ should have their phones tapped by our government; The __________ should be allowed to hold public rallies in our city. Only half of those polled were willing to grant members of their least-liked group the right to make a public speech; 59% thought tapping their telephones was acceptable; 29% thought that the group should be outlawed altogether;
How Far are We Willing to Go to Support Free Speech? Controversial art Indecency on the internet Campus Speech codes
Free Speech and Artistic Expression “The Holy Virgin Mary” (1996), by Chris Ofili “Piss Christ” (1987), by Andres Serrano
Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” (1538) Manet’s “Olympia” (1863)
Indecency on the Internet The Miller test (1973) asks whether an average person, applying contemporary local community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest. IS THERE SUCH A THING?
UVM Code of Students Rights and Responsibilities Reasons for the Policy “Some actions cannot be tolerated because they seriously interfere with the basic purposes and processes of an academic community or with the rights accorded other members of the community.” The policy “helps to foster a culture of inclusion and openness and to promote positive changes in student cultures and behavioral norms.” Student freedom must be “coupled with personal responsibility and accountability for individual action and the consequences of that action.”
The Code applies conduct that occurs on University premises or at University related activities. “Likewise, conduct engaged in through electronic communication systems, including, but not limited to, social media, e-mail, and text messaging, is subject to the provisions herein.” “Off-campus behavior may also subject a student to the conduct process or other appropriate administrative action when it is reasonable perceived to post an imminent threat of harm to the safety of the student or others…” UVM Code of Students Rights and Responsibilities Applicability of the Policy
Offenses against persons include: “verbal or written statements that constitute a form of expression not protected by the First Amendment, such as obscenities, fighting words, or defamation.” “Non-physical abuse is defined as conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or demeaning environment that substantially interferes with another’s ability to participate in or realize the intended benefits of educations or employment opportunities, peaceful enjoyment of residence, or physical security. Non- physical abuse shall be found where, in aggregate, the conduct is sufficiently pervasive, persistent, or severe that a reasonable person would be adversely affected to such a degree.” UVM Code of Students Rights and Responsibilities - Policy Elaboration
2007: “Non-physical abuse means psychological abuse or abusive behavior through oral or written statements that are intended or could reasonably be foreseen to cause disruption, embarrassment, humiliation, shame, fright, grief, or intimidation.” 2012: “Non-physical abuse is defined as conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or demeaning environment that substantially interferes with another’s ability to participate in or realize the intended benefits of educations or employment opportunities, peaceful enjoyment of residence, or physical security. Non- physical abuse shall be found where, in aggregate, the conduct is sufficiently pervasive, persistent, or severe that a reasonable person would be adversely affected to such a degree.” UVM Code of Students Rights and Responsibilities - Policy Elaboration
The University of Vermont considers freedom of inquiry and discussion essential to a student’s educational development. Thus, the University recognizes the right of all students to engage in discussion, to exchange thought and opinion, and to speak, write, or publish freely on any subject, in accordance with the guarantees of the United States and Vermont constitutions. This broad principle is the cornerstone of education in a democracy… There are no restrictions on the points of view expressed by speakers other than those imposed by federal or state law.” UVM Code of Students Rights and Responsibilities - Policy Elaboration
Free Speech vs. Hate Speech The Debate over College Speech Codes “There is currently a regulation on the books here at UVM (where I work) that demands that any group—whether student or not—get a permit to espouse their philosophy on campus. Why? What is the university afraid of? Communists? Out of control religious zealots? And who made them the arbiter of who should be allowed to have freedom of speech and who should not? These regulations are like those in many towns and cities that forbid rallies and demonstrations by residents unless the groups or individuals involved pay for the police and other services the municipality insists that it must provide…. It is time to remove these regulations from the books. To do so may invite ideas we don’t want to hear, but it will also create an environment where we can debate and challenge ideas we disagree with. If we don’t live and study in a democratic environment, how will we know how to make one once we leave this place? If the first amendment isn’t fought for, it will continue to disappear. Remember, Tom Paine didn’t ask the British for a permit to publish Common Sense.” Ron Jacobs, Counterpunch.org, April 16/17, 2005