Free Speech /First Amendment


There were times when people would be imprisoned for speaking out their minds. Speech is one form of communication of thought, ideas and beliefs. Without the freedom of speech people can be forced to accept things that are stated by the society.

In England for instance, during the 16th century Henry VII was taken to prison for speaking his mind, at the time it was a crime that was punishable by death. Freedom of speech allows personal ideas to be expressed freely; more so the freedom of speech in the United States governed by the first amendment of the constitution other than communication also covers public acts like parades demonstration, artist expressions and pickets.

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First Amendment in the United States constitution protects the freedom of speech (Tedford 123). Government condemnation and advocacy ideas that are not popular which people find without taste and against public policy for example racism and chauvinism are always unacceptable.

Child pornography laws, Miller test for obscenity and speeches that may result to lawless actions are some of the exceptions in the general protection. In these areas there are limitations of free speech and other rights like rights of inventor and authors over their copyright. In US a graduated system is followed in regulating freedom of speech. In the First Amendment diverse types of regulation are subject to analysis in court challenges.

Types of Speeches

There are different types of speeches; the first is core political speech the most guarded form due to its communicative nature and its function to a republic that is functional (Mike 65). It is a speech about political issues and ideas that are not motivated by profit; the restrictions in this kind of speech must be well analyzed or else they can be struck down. Another kind of speech is commercial speech, in this kind it is not wholly protected although it is regulated by the state (Mike).

There are some exceptions to freedom of expression. Many of these have been identified by the court and in many cases without controversy. Courts justified them as speeches which could harm the public or speeches that the fore fathers had no intention of protecting or just customs that had been part of common law tradition from England where the American legal system is derived.


Obscenity is one of the exceptions, according to the US Miller Test, obscenity is a test used by Supreme Court to determine if an expression or a speech can be termed obscene and whether it can be protected by the first amendment of the constitution (Tedford 124). This is speech that describes sexual conduct in very offensive way and it can also be described as pornography.

Defamation is another exception and consists of publication of report of a fact that is untrue and can harm the reputation of another person. The freedom of expression has restrictions where ones expressions can harm the reputation of another person. An allegation of fact is a requirement in defamation that is false while the expression of an opinion is not defamation.

Right to pornography

This topic on pornography has had a lot of discussions in the United States for many years. For people would want the legislation to regulate it and would also like to have software that would filter it.

The greatest problem is that it is not easy to make laws that would go against it because by doing so someone would be challenging the first amendment. In any case so many issues have been raised that include claims that it demoralizes women and it’s filthy to be seen by the children. The main question is whether pornography is really harmful (Emerson). There are some reasons why the government finds it difficult to put restriction on pornography.

In social theory and in practice Emerson states that there is no enough reason as to why some people would find some material unpleasant and try to give restrictions on those materials (Emerson). In order to have restrictions on such materials there is need to have appropriate ground to make such laws so as to prevent the distribution of pornographic material because by looking at it from any perspective it is against the laws of free speech as outlined by the first amendment.

There is disagreement among traditional liberal defenders regarding discarding the principles of legal paternalism and legal moralism mostly in cases where people above eighteen year are concerned (Emerson). This does not mean that they approve obscenity they actually find it offensive and mindless.

Most people admit that the major function of pornography is to cause sexual arousal to viewers which can be regarded as low value speech. This is a speech that does not contribute anything that is artistic, intellectual, literal or of any political merit to the social and moral environment (Emerson).

On the contrary it does not mean that it need not be protected. It is strongly believed that mature and healthy adults are free to pursue their own pleasures privately and that the opinion of others on whether it is right or wrong to do so is intrusive or uncalled for. The implication is that what many find moral should not be allowed in law to hold back rebellious minority opinions so as to force their moral beliefs on others.

Today the first amendment that protects freedom of speech is viewed by many liberals as a fundamental right that cannot be regulated by government. But it is acceptable and expected for the State to intervene and regulate speech when it is used to cause harm.

There is no known way for determining the harm caused to others so as to justify what legal action that should be taken in case of such speech. To arrive at a decision whether or not to restrict speech in such a case, the nature and impact of harm caused is weighed against the interest of those involved (Emerson). This is then compared to the benefits and costs of an alternative policy that should be undertaken. If any speech goes against the interest of the majority of the public and its benefit minimal it should be restricted.


The first amendment is of great importance since without it, citizens in the US would not be given a chance by the US government to be heard. For democracy to change and grow the citizens should be allowed to voice their ideas. Without the first amendment there would be no words in music, it would also be difficult to print publications freely, there would be no going to groups and attending organizations and lastly everyone would belong to the same religion.

Without the first amendment US could be very corrupt since there would be no press which serves the function of a watchdog. This is because the five fundamental freedoms which are essential and accomplished through the amendment would not be possible.

Work Cited

Mike, Godwin. “Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age”. New York: Times Books. 1998. Print.

Tedford, Thomas. “Freedom of speech in the United States”. Carbondale: Southern Illinois, 1985. Print.

Emerson, Thomas . “Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment.”The Yale Law Journal Company, 14.2 (1963): 123-132.


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