Freedom of Speech
The U.S. Constitutions First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech. This freedom allows people to say, wear, read, or listen to anything as long as it does not cause harm or impede on other peoples freedoms. Although people are granted this freedom, there are many policies that seem to oppose freedom of speech. For instance, there are policies that regulate content on the radio, on television and in movies, and in books and magazines. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a federal agency that enforces some of these regulatory policies, provides ratings to consumers on a variety of media sources based on the amount of potentially offensive material in media. For example, if a movie is rated NC-17, it contains so much potentially offensive material that it will not enter a movie theatre. If a videogame or television show is rated Mature, then the product is not recommended for minors unless authorized by an adult.
The Supreme Court must uphold the Constitution and in doing so protect the right to freedom of speech. This week, you read about cases in which the Supreme Court had to make difficult decisions about freedom of speech. In Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, Jerry Falwell stated that the magazine had caused him emotional distress as a result of its published parody advertisement of him. The Court, in a unanimous decision, prohibited the awarding of compensation to Falwell for emotional distress. They cited the First Amendments free-speech guarantee when they determined that Hustler magazines parody advertisement was within the law.
To prepare for this Discussion: