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Freedom of Speech: Know Your Rights

Freedom of Speech: Know Your Rights

Freedom of Speech was for the powerful and the wealthy during the days of colonial America. It was not until the Bill of Rights was implemented in 1789 that the Freedom of Speech became a protected right for all citizens of the United States of America.

Despite people’s efforts to ensure the original intent of our Founding Fathers remains true as the nation continuously evolves, the meaning of the First Amendment has become blurred; people view Freedom of Speech as a right with no constraints when in fact, in our complex society, it has many.

The Freedom of Speech

The Freedom of Speech, as it is declared in the First Amendment in the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from unnecessarily or arbitrarily interfering with an individual’s speech. It allows U.S. citizens to question the government and even supports ostracized ideas against public policy that may be offensive to other individuals. The First Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791 and states that: 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.

Know Your Rights

As a democratic country it makes perfect sense that Freedom of Speech is not absolute. The Supreme Court of the United States of America has excluded several categories of speech from the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has also given governments the right to enact reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech.

Practicing Your Freedom of Speech

In a perfect world, there would be no ambiguity about the advantages of freedom of speech. Unfortunately with the advantages of Freedom of Speech comes the adverse state of affairs that can be detrimental to the evolution of the human race. For the First Amendment to benefit us in the ways our Founding Father’s intended it to, the majority must put a stop to the constant abuse of the Freedom of Speech by groups advocating offensive ideas. It is not always about what you have to say, but how you say it. Your right to express your opinion is protected, however, ignorance is not.

Do not abuse your Freedom of Speech, but instead consider when, where and how to put your free-speech rights to good use.

How Free Are We?

One must keep in mind that the United States of America has been built on democratic values. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a democratic government is defined as “a government by the people; especially:  rule of the majority” not on utopian ideas of a society with collective ideas and values. While the First Amendment may allow us to express our opinions, practice our beliefs and hold assemblies and protests, there are limitations to the First Amendment, as the saying goes and as democracy is often defined “majority rules.”