“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.” -First Amendment, U.S. Constitution.
Of all the amendments, the First Amendment is the broadest in scope and most comprehensively litigated in court since the time of its ratification. The Establishment Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, and the speech clauses each have mountains of published legal opinion on record. So what does freedom of speech look like today?
It is important to understand that free speech only applies to the relationship between the government and the governed; it does not apply to citizens and their employers. In fact, most corporations and public-interfacing jobs require adherence to a Code of Ethics which you, as an employee/partner/etc, agree to maintain. That contract usually includes voluntarily limiting your freedom of speech, especially on social media.
Ask any police officer, school teacher, or healthcare worker, etc, if they feel comfortable expressing unpopular opinions on social media. The safe bet is they do not because, yes, your employer can fire you for a controversial online post and do it without violating your 1A rights. The Constitution prevents the government from infringing on free speech but it does not require private corporations to grant you the same privilege.
There is also no law that requires social media outlets to allow freedom of speech. Outlets like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are well within their legal rights to censor whomever they wish. Remember when Facebook banned Infowars? Perfectly legal. Fortunately, we maintain a capitalist society so if you truly feel a certain platform is too liberal (or conservative) you can delete your old account and create your own platform.
Free speech does not include acts of aggression or hostility towards individuals or private property. So, can you deface a public monument in the name of free speech? No. Peaceful assembly and peaceful protests are also protected under the 1A but violence and hostility are not. Whenever speech becomes action, then actions can become criminal.
Included under the concept of free speech is “symbolic speech”. There is, however, a thin, gray, and porous line between symbolic speech and action. For example, burning a US flag in protest is, per a SCOTUS decision in 1989, a symbolic form of speech. Burning a Christian cross in the same public forum would be a hate crime.
It’s also important to understand that in the United States we maintain the unique belief that all speech, even hate speech, is free speech. This sentiment is unpopular but it is extremely important because what one political party deems hateful while they are in power may be a rallying cry for the other. And the end result of not protecting speech we do not agree with is a civil war. Hate speech may be despicable and immoral but – as long as speech does not become action – hate speech itself is entirely legal and must be protected.
So, what do conservatives believe about free speech? The most conservative view of the 1A is ironically also the classical liberal view. Conservatives should push for free speech in every form possible, in every outlet possible, and in any form possible. Conservatives today are the most marginalized and suppressed of any demographic in the US. The reality is that if you support Pres. Trump then you have a target on your back already. If anyone should hold a liberal view of free speech, then it should be Conservatives because without the right to exercise free speech then the conservative and Christian values that once made this country great will be outlawed.
The liberal mob seeks to control your ideology, your actions, and your way of life. They seek to marginalize any who do not conform to their twisted and depraved views of sexuality, masculinity, and morality. They would sacrifice our national identity on the altar of communism in the name of social justice. They would replace God Himself with the US Government. Exercise your free speech and speak out against the liberal mob’s mission to propagate identity politics, usher in socialism, and normalize the most sinful gore imaginable under the guise of freedom of expression.
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