LIMITS ON FREE SPEECH
SCHENECK V. UNITED STATES (1919)
The Facts The Issue The Decision
During World War I, Charles Schenck was convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, which made it a crime to cause refusal of duty in the military
Schenck had distributed pamphlets urging men to resist the military draft Schenck’s appeal to the Supreme Court argued that his actions were protected by the First Amendment The Court unanimously upheld Schenck’s conviction and said that in times of war the government may place reasonable limitations on freedom of speech
WHY IT MATTERS
The Supreme Court reasoned that there are limits to freedom of speech. Justice Oliver Wendell Hilmes pointed out that one does not have the right to falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater and cause panic. He then set his famous “clear and present danger” test for determining the limits of the First Amendment protection of speech.
“The question in every case is whether the words used are used in circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress had a right to prevent”
Over the years, the Supreme Court has protected the individual’s right to express unpopular ideas. But the Court has also said that free speck is limited. Restricted speech includes obscenities, libel, slander, words that incite violence, and words that pose an immediate threat to the rights of individuals or national security.
CONNECT TO YOUR WORLD
What are the limits of free speech in schools? Select one of the cases below, Research and summarize the facts of the case, the Court’s decision, and the reasoning behind the decision. Explain why you agree or disagree with the decision
• Tinker v. Des Moines School District -1969
• Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier-1988