First Amendment rights in the 2010s – UConn Daily Campus

Posted: December 8, 2019 at 3:47 pm

CharlesDickensunwittingly described our current political situationwhen writingA Tale of Two Cities:It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.

United States citizens live in an age of unprecedented rights. Our Supreme Court in 2015upheld the right for gay people to get married.Recently,civil asset forfeitureis being reconsidered, and theapparatuses supporting the war on drugs arebeginning to be dismantled.The currentgenerationhas upheldtheimportance of Miranda Rightsin Florida v. Powelland more broadly questioned the importance of the police state. Thecourts agree that speech includes the right to spend money onadvertising ideasand that corporationsalso are entitled tospeechprotection.This generation realizes that patriotism should not stifle dissent. In fact,the United States Supreme Court recognizes in Snyder v. Phelps that one isevenable tolegallypicket a service members funeral.More charter schoolsare becoming another school choicefor poorer Americansand,as a result,are producing better-educated students.The death penalty is illegal in 21 states,andthe First Step Act is a good start to sentencing reform. In many ways, were living in the best of times.

On the other hand,all is not well in theUnited States. Thecurrent president workedvigorouslyto deport millions of undocumented immigrants, wanted to use extreme vetting of Muslim immigrants and tried toencouragea Muslim registry. His efforts todecry independent mediaandhis support for the death penalty andfor unconstitutionalstop-and-friskpoliciesaredisgustingremnants of a worse time.However, thedandyDemocratsare no lesser of a poison.Rather than condemn authoritarianism, the DemocraticParty has looked toward ways of making power polite.ElizabethWarrens specific brand of economic populism callsfor wealth taxes,which will increasegovernment intrusion into the lives of citizens ina way never before seen. Additionally, Warren calls for eliminating charter schools,which primarily benefit poorer children,while ironicallysending her son to a private school. OtherDemocratic darlingslikeBetoORourke claim that theyre forcibly going to be taking guns from the American populace.

Outside the larger political scene, First Amendment rights have been largely upheldby the Supreme Courtin the 2010s.Janus v. AFSCME successfully argued that labor unions collecting fees fromnon-union members violates the First Amendment provisions relating to free association and freedom of speech.In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the court upheld the right of conscience relating to artistic and religious freedom. In 2017, Lee v. Tam upheld the right of trademarking an offensive name.In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley, the freedom to be associated with a religious group does not make one ineligible for government benefits and thus upholds free association.Another landmark win for free expression took place in 2017 whenPackinghamv. North Carolina struck down the statute that prohibited sex offenders from accessing social media. In Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, tax breaks and grants were further allowed to be given to churches and other religious organizations. Furthermore, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and Schoolv. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission established that discrimination laws do not apply to organizations selections of religious leaders. In 2012 notably, United States v. Alvarez struck down exceptions to the First Amendment relating to stolen valor.

The trend through the 2010s showsan increasingly broad look on rights. By denying restrictions on churches, free assembly, artistic freedom, etc.,we strengthen the values of dissent and discourse that allow our country to thrive.

However, outsideof the Supreme Courtthe First Amendment has fared worse.Former PresidentBarackObama actively encouraged IRS action against conservative nonprofit organizations. In 2013, journalists protested the exclusion of press photographers from news events and criticized the first amendment case of Citizens United. Thats not to say that our current president has done any better.President Trump frequently bashes the mediaas fake news andwants to change libel laws. Also, our students are increasingly hostile to freedom of speech. According to a Brookings Institution poll, 40% of students believe the Constitution does not protecthate speech. Nineteen percentof students said that physical violence is an acceptable way to deal with offensive speech,and 50% of students said the appropriate response to speech they disagree with is to shut it down.

Overall, while the First Amendment is increasingly being upheld by higher courts, the cultureand political will upholding expressionhas weakenedand needs to be bolstered.

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First Amendment rights in the 2010s - UConn Daily Campus

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