Freedom of speech has been an important element in the United States that has set apart this country from others. Citizen’s usually are free to exercise this right, yet there have been cases that show that this right is not always respected. I believe that the Supreme Court is striving to address these issues in a fair way the conserve our right of speech. In this paper, I will look at several examples at instances where the Freedom of Speech was violated and what consequences followed.
Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran served as the U.S. fire administrator, received the “Fire Chief of the Year” award, and helped improve the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. However, his career came to an abrupt stop after he was suspended and ultimately fired, all because of his beliefs about marriage. During his own time, he self-published a Christian book with his views on sex and marriage. He believed in marriage between a man and a woman. The mayor initiated an investigation upon hearing this and found there to be no evidence that Cochran discriminated anyone. He himself overcame poverty and racism, and never intended to treat anyone the same way. However, Reed was still bothered and ordered Cochran to attend “sensitivity training”. In the end, Cochran still lost his job.
In December of 2017, a federal district court ruled that the city violated his freedom of speech. This example shows that a city cannot police speech, and it cannot target views with which it does not agree. The city of Atlanta later awarded him with 1.2 million dollars. There is such a strong push to be tolerant of the LGBT community, but I question when this interferes with people’s lives, as it did in Cochran’s life, and their right to freedom of speech? It is a question that we, as a nation, must solve to truly create fairness for all and balance the rights that our Founding Fathers would have hoped for us.
Freedom of speech is not just a right we have as long as everything we say is kind. On the contrary, even when speech may be offensive, the First Amendment does not lose its power. A few months ago at the University of Michigan, a policy was passed that could potentially punish students if what they said made their peers feel offended. They implemented a speech code on campus and punishments included suspension or expulsion. The University has also organized “bias response teams” in which administrators and law enforcement investigate whether students have violated the speech code. This code does not only apply while on campus but also applies while off-campus as well. This has been implemented and encouraged by a powerful group of college administrators who want to silence people who want to disagree with their political and cultural views.
All people living in the United States should have the freedom of speech, as explained in the Bill of Rights, including college students. No group of people should have the power to silence anyone purely to protect the feelings of others. This case was brought to the Justice Department and was looked at more in-depth. In the past twelve months, this is the fourth such document that it has filed in regards to defending college student’s free speech rights. The Justice Department is defending the First Amendment and advocating the opportunity to speak.
Though we may appreciate restrictions on other people’s right to speak things that may be offensive to us, it is important to protect this right when it may be the other ways around. There are some restrictions on what you can and cannot say (for example yelling “fire” in a public place), however, it would be impossible to ban everything that could potentially make someone feel offended. Where do you draw the line? Heritage.org is essentially saying that you cannot even have a line in the first place, because it violates our Freedom of Speech. Simply put, the First Amendment has power in both instances where speech is pleasant or offensive.
The First Amendment was tried again in a different case, involving two gay men and a bakery called Masterpiece Cakeshop. Back in 2012, these two men wanted to get married and went to this local bakeshop in Colorado. However, the owner of the bakeshop refused to make them a cake, as gay marriages were against his religion and he did not want to bake a cake for such an occasion. This situation was taken to the Colorado Civil Rights Division in which they said that the bakeshop violated a Colorado law in which businesses cannot discriminate due to a person’s sexual orientation. It didn’t end there, though.
Five years later, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. The following year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop. This was such a big deal because it showed that the Supreme Court is trying to distinguish between people themselves, and their ideas. They are supporting dignity for people while also respecting their individual consciences. Heritage.org explains that both sides of this debate concerning same-sex marriage can and should be accommodated. I completely agree with this, and am interested in how the First Amendment comes into play when it comes to actions. I am thankful to live in a country where this is highly favored and believe that the Constitution’s and Supreme Court’s main objective is to respect and protect the freedoms of all, including gays, straights, and all people.
I learned from this example that Freedom of Speech doesn’t only protect speech itself, but the expression of ourselves. The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop should not have to go against his beliefs just to financially support himself. In addition, I believe that the two gay men should be able to purchase a cake if they so desire. The problem is, they shouldn’t force a specific baker to do this for them. There are several businesses that will accommodate gays and I don’t think it would have been too much of an inconvenience to go somewhere else.
By researching on heritage.org, I have formulated new opinions and thoughts relating to the First Amendment and our Freedom of Speech. I more fully understand that this is a complicated issue and is not as simple as allowing anyone and everyone to say whatever they want. I think that the first step in law is seeing people as people, who have lives and families and opinions and feelings, and the point of the law is to allow for freedom for all. Sometimes Freedom of Speech may impede on a different right, or vice versa. In these cases, we must remember to be respectful first, and then make decisions that are as fair as possible.
I also realized that the basic reason we have the Freedom of Speech is to protect speech that can be perceived as offensive. People who speak popular terms do not need protection of the law. It is those who may have different beliefs. This is one of the main points of the Freedom of Speech.
The articles also expressed in one way or another that with our Freedom of Speech comes the right to think and act in certain ways according to our beliefs. These too are areas of expression that should be protected. Our beliefs are central to our lives, and we show these beliefs through our words and our actions together. Because it is so central, it requires a lot of discussion and thought regarding possible consequences for those who feel that others are violating their freedom of speech.