American greatness is founded on a couple of fundamental beliefs, some of which are enforced in the constitution. One of the most celebrated things about the U.S. is freedom of speech, which a First Amendment right.
But we all know that constitutional provisions and realities do not always meet. So, even though the American constitution clearly says you have the right to speak your mind, as does most other documents of this manner in the world, is there really freedom of speech in America? Let’s find out.
American In a League of Its Own On Free Speech
First of all, it should be understood that practically every other country in the world has nothing on America as far as freedom of speech goes. This includes many Western countries popular for their solid human rights records.
For instance, the US has no laws against hate speech, which is one of the issues that greatly undermines, and at times cripples, freedom of speech in many nations around the world. So, if you want to say whatever you want and have the best chance of getting away with it, then the U.S. is the place to be.
What Freedom of Speech Means in America
In America, freedom of speech includes the right not to recite the pledge, the right not to speak, the right to use words and phrases people might consider offensive, the right to promote controversial products and services (some restrictions might still apply), and even the right to using symbolism to express yourself such as burning flags.
What Freedom of Speech is Not
That said, the courts will not accept that you were using your freedom of speech if your words result in actions that might cause harm to other people. The distribution of obscene materials, and burning draft cards is also not considered freedom of speech – these are crimes.
Students also have a strong voice in the freedom of speech debate. But they cannot promote illegal drugs at school events, use obscene speech at school events or use school newspapers to print materials that the administrators do not agree with.
Why There are Some Restrictions, and their Limits
The reason the freedom of speech law is different for schools has something to do with the fact that the constitution is concerned with the government getting in the way of free speech. Therefore, being part of an institution that has restrictions that limit freedom of speech as provided by the constitution is not something the government can interfere with, unless that institution is owned by the government.
Nevertheless, the government can step in if businesses, individuals, and institutions infringe freedom of speech provisions fairly awarded by the constitution. For instance, employers cannot keep employees from being part of a union or disclosing how much they earn.
So, Is there Really Freedom of Speech in America?
All in all, we can say that there is freedom of speech in America. The country’s judicial system goes to great lengths to protect this right.
However, whether or not the public will consider some acts to be free speech is another matter altogether. For instance, failing to stand for the pledge might come off to some people as “un-American”, and draw a lot of criticism. In such cases, it is a question of whether you are ready to face the challenges that come with exercising your freedom of speech.
To sum up, free speech is not absolute in America, or in any country in the world for that matter. But America is unsurpassed when it comes to the protection of this right. That said, free speech does come at a price – the courts might not have an issue with the way you exercise your freedom of speech, but the public might react differently to your idea of free speech.
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