FIRST AMENDMENT: How far does it go? – Evening News and Tribune

Posted: August 15, 2017 at 11:53 am

SOUTHERN INDIANA With the recent events in Charlottesville, many Americans are asking themselves: Does the first amendment protect all forms of speech?

According to Ted Walton, lawyer and partner at Clay Daniel Walton Adams, a law firm in Louisville, the First Amendment protections for the freedom of speech are wide and do include speech that is distasteful, offensive and hateful.

There is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment and in fact thats been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court very recently in an interesting case, Walton said.

That case, which was heard by the court earlier just this year, was Matal, Interim Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office vs. Tam, in which the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that an Asian-American band The Slants was legally allowed to trademark its name despite its potentially offensive nature.

This Supreme Court has really championed First Amendment rights and youve seen that with things like the campaign finance rulings that theyve passed," said Rhonda Wrzenski, associate professor of political science at Indiana University Southeast. "Theres been other rulings too where theyve allowed groups that werent necessarily popular to have more speech rights. So typically they make exceptions to the speech rights, theyve banned obscenities, defamations, inciting violence. Basically, threats.

Walton explained that, legally speaking, the First Amendment doesnt protect verbal acts

If you are using words in such a way that its directed at a particular person and meant to incite someone and beat somebody up, that can be a criminal act, Walton said.

Yelling Fire! in a crowded theater is a verbal act and intentionally creates a hazardous situation and is not protected by the First Amendment, according to Walton

Thats the dichotomy," Walton said. "You have folks that are standing up and saying they hate these groups [of people]. Its going to be protected speech. But if people are saying lets go drive a car into this group and somebody drives a car into that group, that person is not going to have First Amendment protection."

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FIRST AMENDMENT: How far does it go? - Evening News and Tribune

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