The first Amendment to the Constitution states that "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.
The dictionary defines speech as:
- the faculty or power of speaking; oral communication; ability to express one's thoughts and emotions by speech sounds and gesture: Losing her speech made her feel isolated from humanity.
- the act of speaking: He expresses himself better in speech than in writing.
- something that is spoken; an utterance, remark, or declaration: We waited for some speech that would indicate her true feelings.
- a form of communication in spoken language, made by a speaker before an audience for a given purpose: a fiery speech.
- any single utterance of an actor in the course of a play, motion picture, etc.
Somewhere along the way, we have taken the words of our forefathers, and used them to apply to many different actions. For example, in the 1970's students were banned for wearing black arm bands in protest of the Vietnam War, however, the courts declared it as an expression of free speech, and allowed it.
Another instance is the burning of the country's flag in 1969. This case was also sent to the Supreme Court and has allowed it too. This has been challenged several times over the years.
More recently there have been cases in schools involving hair color and tee shirt slogans. These have also been protected under the Free Speech Clause. My interpretation of the first Amendment is that citizens have the right to voice their opinion without fear of reprimand, as long as the statements are true and do not defame. I do not believe that allowing women to walk in public topless should be covered under the protection of free speech.
This week is Freedom of Speech Week. Earlier this year FIRE, (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) teamed up with Students for Liberty to celebrate freedom of speech. They passed out copies of the constitution held events, and put up freedom of speech walls in hopes to educate the students at several universities about their rights to speech. It was hailed as a great success.
To learn more about this organization and how you can help to educate others, click on this site: http://thefire.org/article/14393.html