Freedom of Speech


The United States Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech. This freedom allows people to say, wear, read, or listen to anything as long as it does not cause harm or impede on other people’s freedoms. Although people are granted this freedom, there are many policies that seem to oppose freedom of speech. For instance, there are policies that regulate content on the radio, on television and in movies, and in books and magazines. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a federal agency that enforces some of these regulatory policies, provides ratings to consumers on a variety of media sources based on the amount of potentially offensive material in media. For example, if a movie is rated “NC-17,” it contains so much potentially offensive material that it will not enter a movie theatre. If a video game or television show is rated “Mature,” then the product is not recommended for minors unless authorized by an adult.

The Supreme Court must uphold the Constitution and in doing so, protect the right to freedom of speech. This week, you read about cases in which the Supreme Court had to make difficult decisions about freedom of speech. In Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, Jerry Falwell stated that the magazine had caused him emotional distress as a result of its published parody advertisement of him. The court, in a unanimous decision, prohibited the awarding of compensation to Falwell for emotional distress. They cited the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee when they determined that Hustler magazine’s parody advertisement was within the law.

For this assignment, consider policies and controversies surrounding individual rights.

To prepare:

Consider how the Supreme Court ruled on freedom of speech cases.

Review the Supreme Court cases Brandenburg v. Ohio and Hustler Magazine v. Falwell. Reflect on how the Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.

Identify a policy or controversy that affects freedom of speech—that is, how it contradicts or broadens it—and consider why it does so.

Think about how the courts would rule on the policy or controversy you selected.

With these thoughts in mind:

Provide an example of the controversial policy you identified. Then, explain how it affects freedom of speech. Finally, based on the cases you read this week, explain how you think the courts would rule on the controversial policy and why. Be specific.

Support your response using the Learning Resources and other scholarly resources.


Perry, B. A. (2006). Jefferson’s legacy to the Supreme Court: Freedom of religion. Journal of Supreme Court History, 31(2), 181–198. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5818.2006.00134.x


City of Boerne v. Flores, Archbishop of San Antonio, and United States 521 U.S. 507 (1997).

Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).

Hustler Magazine and Flynt v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1987).

Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989).

Optional Resources


Copeland, L. (2003, August 21). 10 Commandments appeal fails: Monument ordered out of Ala. building [Final edition 1]. USA TODAY, p. A01.

Schemo, D. J. (2001, October 23). After a surge, limits return to school prayer [Late edition: East Coast]. New York Times, p. A16.

Associated Press. (2005, August 11). Court rejects challenge to pledge of allegiance [Late edition: East Coast]. New York Times, p. A19.

Delahunty, R., & Yoo, J. (2003). Against foreign law. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, 29, 291–330. Retrieved from…

Posner, R. (2015). The law of the lands: How the U.S. Supreme Court engages with the world. Retrieved from…

Bernes, R. (2015). Supreme court says president’s powers prevail on foreign borders. Retrieved from…


Separation of Church and State…