Paper On The First Amendment

1137 words - 5 pages

Bitter conflicts have resulted over the debate of civil liberties in America. Civil liberties are "freedoms that individuals enjoy and that governments cannot invade" (Miroff, Seidelman, Swanstorm 450). The civil liberties of U.S. citizens are largely embedded in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, but America's judicial system has had to resolve many conflicts arising between civil liberties some consider to be basic freedoms that others see as threats to order and morality. Through the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religious exercise as well as separation of church and state. But the First Amendment has not always conferred ...view middle of the document...

It held that neither students nor teachers lost their right to free speech while in school and that administrators would have to demonstrate constitutionally valid reasons for any specific regulation of speech in the classroom ("Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District"). The Supreme Court also said that wearing an armband as a silent form of protest was protected as free speech (Miroff, Seidelman, Swanstorm 457). If I were a judge, I would argue that it is a violation of the First Amendment for a public school to prohibit students from silent, passive protests such as wearing an armband at school as long as it does not interfere with the learning process or create a hostile atmosphere.The case of Texas v. Johnson in 1989 was another controversial Supreme Court decision. During the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas, Gregory Lee Johnson participated in a political demonstration to protest the policies of the Reagan administration. After a march through the city streets, Johnson burned an American flag while protesters chanted. No one was physically injured or threatened with injury, although several witnesses were seriously offended by the flag burning. Johnson was later convicted of desecrating the American flag, based on a Texas law (Miroff, Seidelman, Swanstorm 457). When the case was appealed to Supreme Court, the question the Court had to answer was, is the desecration of an American flag, by burning or otherwise, a form of speech that is protected under the First Amendment? Furthermore, can an act of political dissent be made illegal because some find it offensive? Ultimately, the Court overturned Johnson's conviction on the grounds that the Texas law against flag burning violated the First Amendment by punishing Johnson for the communication of a political message (Miroff, Seidelman, Swanstorm 457). I would reason, similarly with the High Court, that it is a violation of the First Amendment for a state to prohibit a person from burning an American flag when it offends onlookers or is used as a means of expressing a political viewpoint. After all, Americans have to endure speech or actions that seem offensive in order to maintain a healthy democracy. Like Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, I too believe that "we must fight the speech we h...


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