I don’t have any specific examples today, but I am struck by how there continues to be such widespread misunderstanding of the first amendment. I see regularly news reports and commentaries that seem to accept the premise that offensive statements can, or should, be outlawed.
It’s really pretty simple: There’s no exception to the first amendment for statements that offend. Remember when a high official in the Catholic Church said recently that speech is not protected if it is “hate speech… intended to ridicule another religion?” That is not the law. The government can’t prohibit a statement just because its content is offensive.
Yes, there are certain categories of speech that can be outlawed without violating the first amendment, but statements that offend are not one of those categories.
Don’t just take my word for it. Read the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, decided in 1992.
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