Celebrate your rights: Say something!

Jenna Staul

Free speech, the right outlined in the First Amendment that is much of the groundwork for American society and democracy, will be celebrated nationwide this week in the third annual Freedom of Speech of Week.

The observance, held yearly in the third week of October, was created in 2005 by the Media Institute, a Washington, D.C. non-profit think-tank on free speech issues, in partnership with the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation.

The Media Institute defines the right to free speech as “a triumph of democracy – a freedom to be celebrated.”

The institute urges the public to observe the week by raising awareness of the First Amendment, exercising freedom of speech rights and getting others involved.

“It’s important that First Amendment advocacy not be just for the media,” said Patrick Maines, president of the Media Institute, of the significance of Freedom of Speech Week.

Maines said it’s important that the public is aware that free speech extends to areas of everyday American life beyond the media and artistic expression.

“It’s when you put a bumper sticker on your car – some of which are highly political; it’s true of tattoos; its true of the things printed on some T-shirts and information people post online,” Maines said of everyday examples of free speech. “If you want to protect one part of it, you have to protect all of it.”

– Jenna Staul

Student Opinion – Here’s what Kent State students have to say

about the First Amendment to the Constitution:

•”It is what it is.”

Chris Anzevino, freshman special education major.

•”Even if you’re saying something negative, you should be allowed to say it.”

Ryan Mitchell,

freshman political science major.

•”I think it’s important, but it doesn’t affect me.”

Leah Grimes,

freshman education major.

•”As an individual, it might not affect you, but even if you’re not going out there making a free speech, someone else is for you.”

Dan Boyd, freshman business major.

•”Everyone should have free speech, but I don’t have anything else to say about it.”

Larry Brown,

senior criminal justice major.

•”Free speech means you should be able to say whatever you want as long as you’re not bringing harm to anyone else . and as long as, of course, it’s true.”

Dustin Davies,

freshman political science major.


•1641: The Massachusetts General Court drafts the first broad statement of American liberties, the

Massachusetts Body of Liberties. The document includes a right to petition and a statement about due process.

•1735: Libel trial of New York publisher John Peter Zenger for published criticism of the Royal Governor of New York. Zenger is acquitted. His trial establishes the principle that truth is a defense to libel.

•1786: The Virginia legislature adopts the Ordinance of Religious Freedom, which disestablishes the Anglican Church as the official church and prohibits harassment based on religious differences.

•1801: Congress lets the Sedition Act of 1798 expire. The act had punished those who uttered or published “false, scandalous, and malicious” writings against the government.

•1859: John Stuart Mill publishes the essay “On Liberty.” The essay expands John Milton’s argument that if speech is free and the search for knowledge unfettered, then eventually the truth will rise to the surface.

•1920: Founding of the American Civil Liberties Union.

•1925: The “Scopes Monkey Trial” occurs in Dayton, Tenn. Teacher John Thomas Scopes is found guilty of violating a Tennessee law which prohibits teaching the theory of evolution in public schools.

•1938: Life magazine is banned in the U.S. for publishing pictures from the public health film The Birth of a Baby.

•1940: The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down an Alabama law prohibiting loitering and picketing “without a just cause or legal excuse” near businesses.

•1941: Congress authorizes President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create the Office of Censorship.

•1943: The Supreme Court rules that a West Virginia requirement to salute the flag violates the free-speech clause of the First Amendment.

•1943: In National Broadcasting Co. v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court states that no one has a First Amendment right to a radio license or to monopolize a radio frequency.

•1957: The U.S. Supreme Court determines that “obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press.” The Court defines obscenity as “material which deals with sex in a manner appealing to prurient interest.” The mere portrayal of sex, however, in art, literature, scientific works and similar forums “is not itself sufficient reason to deny material the constitutional protection of freedom of speech and press.”

•1962: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a state-compos ed, non-denominational prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It states that such a prayer represents government sponsorship of religion.

•1966: The U.S. Supreme Court invalidates an Arizona statute requiring the dismissal of any state employee who knowingly becomes a member of the Communist Party or any party whose intentions include overthrowing the U.S. government.

•1969: In Tinker vs. Des Moines School District, several students planned to wear black armbands at school in protest of the Vietnam War. School officials quickly banned the armbands, even though other symbols were permitted. The Supreme Court ruled that school officials may not censor student speech unless it will cause a material and substantial disruption of school activities or collide with the rights of others.

•1971: In the “Pentagon Papers” case, New York Times Company vs. United States, the U.S. government attempted to permanently stop The New York Times and the Washington Post from publishing classified documents concerning the Vietnam War.

•1988: In Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier, students wanted to include student-written articles about teen pregnancy and the impact of divorce on kids in their student newspaper. The principal objected to the stories and deleted the articles from the school newspaper. Three students sued. By a 5-3 vote, the Court held that school officials may censor school-sponsored student publications when they are reasonably related to legitimate educational concerns.

Sources: • http://firstamendment.jideas.org/first/timeline.php

• http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=3961