Friday, October 7, 2011

There Should Be No Restrictions On the First Amendment

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robert aghionMatt Beiner /14/0


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There Should Be No Restrictions On the First Amendment


Today, many people are pondering over the choice whether or not to change or put some restrictions on parts of the Constitution due to some outstanding circumstances. One of those parts of the of the Constitution is the First Amendment, where it states “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 redess of grievances” (www.dictionary.com). I personally feel that everybody should be able to say and express how one feels as long as it doesn’t endanger others in any way, and I think both the authors, Paul McMasters and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., would agree with me. These two authors wrote articles defending the First Amendment, “Free Speech Verse Civil Discourse,” written by McMasters (17), and “Let Them Talk” written by Gates(18).


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Paul McMasters directs the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and is President of the Society of Professional Journalists. He opposes any attempts to regulate or ban speech on college campuses. He first touches on how speech codes have not stopped hate speech yet, and how all it is doing is prosecuting and persecuting those whom they are supposed to protect. McMasters also mentions that instead of encouraging and educating, censorship enforces a form of ignorance by taking focus from the actual dialogue, and it could risk an increase of racial tention rather than trying to decrease it. He also says, “They have failed to draw a definite line between acceptable speech and unacceptable speech” (McMasters 17). McMasters begins to pick on the speech code advocates saying how they are unable to see the irony and contradictions in their own positions, and accusing them that by doing this, they are putting on the titles such as racist, sexist and other-ist. In the closing of his article, he says, “No doubt, there are many other constructive and creative ideas for adressing hurtful acts and hateful speech on campus. Before we can tap those ideas, we will need to agree that speech codes are a mistake and that we must move on to the larger and more critical social issues that comfort us now. It is time to abandon the Quest for the Quick fix. It is time to step into the circle of common ground and halt the dangerous dance at the fringes, hurling invective and watching the common ground disintegrate. It is time to devote our energy to tearing down barriers instead of erecting them. It is time to declare an end to the speech code debate and move on to the larger question of eliminating bias and bigotry in all of society” (McMasters 175). McMasters basically wanted to be shown that the First Amendment does not take sides, all sides can march under its banner, all sides must heed its mandate for tolerance, understanding, and search for common ground. He ends his passage with this quote, “In it, there is hope, it may be the only hope” (McMasters 176).


Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an African American Literary scholar at Harvard Universary. Among his published books are Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex, Hate Speech, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man, and The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. A lot of the things he says are reminiscent of Paul McMasters and Susan Gellman. He first touches on the fact that now the black intellectuals are no longer the political imperative to protect free speech (Gates 18). Gates says that the term “hate speech” is an ideology in spansule form, that it is the term-of-art of a movement (Gates 18). Just like McMasters, Gates says that speech codes may be more narrow and responsibly tailored, also carefully drafted by tailors (Gates 18).


Both Mari J. Matsuda and Charles R. Lawrence III do not agree with McMasters and Gates. They both belive that there should be a sencorship and limatations of freedom of speech. Mari J. Matsuda is a law professor at Georgetown University and frequently contributes to law journals. She strongly advocates regulating speech on college campuses. She uses the terms “assaultive speech” and “hate speech” to strongly bring out her points(Matsuda 150). Now, Charles R. Lawrence III is a professor of law at the Stanford University Law School,which played a major role in the debate whether to regulate or ban racist speech on college campuses. He favors doing so. Lawrence supported the speech regulations drafted by a fellow law professor. He presents those regulations and uses them as the basis of arguing that minority-group students need this kind of protection(Lawrence 155).


There are many situations in society today where the words “hate speech” and “fighting words” are taken out of control. In the situation of Suit Forces U.S. Riverside to Rescind Fraternity Penalty, the University took things way out of hand. The Fraternity had a South of the Boarder party, and to promote this party the frat made t-shirts with cartoon people drinking beer. The animated people on these shirts resembled the appearance of Mexicans, and the University considered that rasist, and the frat was disbanded. How strange, a Mexican at the South of the Border � wow, that is really racist � com’on! The school’s inter-fraternity council fought for the frat and finally got them reinstated (Ralph Frammolino 111-114). Another ridiculous situation is the case of Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire, where a man named Walter Chaplinsky, a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, was out doing his preaching work on the streets of Rochester, New Hampshire, one Saturday morning. People started to complain to the point where a police officer had to approach the man and tell him to leave. Walter responded to the officer saying, “You are a God damned racketeer and a damned facist and the whole government of Rochester are facists or agents of facists.” The man was arrested on the account of violating New Hampshire law 78. The court said that it was irrelevant, but it should have never been a case in the first place (U.S. Supreme Court 16-18). These are just some of the many examples that prove that people are just overreacting and that as long as you aren’t physically harmed or threatend by words, then stop being so sensitive and let people talk.





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