The first amendment to the constitution is perhaps the most significant aspect of the constitution’s bill of rights. The amendment guarantees five of the most basic rights, including religious freedom, free expression, free press, free assembly, and the right to lobby the government to redress wrongs. However, there are other protections under other amendments that are still considered very significant, such as the right to an attorney and the right to be free from arbitrary searches and seizures. In terms of the value of these rights, the controversy has always been about religious freedom and free expression. However, freedom of speech remains on top as the most important right enshrined in the Bill of rights.
Why Freedom of Speech is the most important right
Freedom of speech entitles all Citizens to express their opinion on all issues provide that they do not deliberately hurt the reputation of others by making false accusations against them. The right also forbids people from making irresponsible statements aimed at harming others such as causing a false alarm. With the freedom of speech, citizens are able to disagree with opinions of others and the government without fearing any form of punishment or intimidation. Generally, the freedom of speech includes several components. One of these components is the right t nit to speak. One has the right to remain silent if they do not want to speak. The freedom also entails the engage in symbolic speech such as using placards to pass across a message during demonstrations (United States Courts). Further, freedom of speech provides citizens with the right to advertise commercial products and professional services without any restrictions.
The freedom of speech has been argued to be the most important human right due to a variety of reasons. In a U.S. Supreme court case of Palko v. Connecticut Justice Benjamin N. Cordozo commented that Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom. The implication of this is that freedom of speech is the basis upon which other freedoms are formulated. Free speech is the foundation of a democracy, and without it, other fundamental freedoms such as voting rights would not stand. In the case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969), the courts further emphasized the importance of freedom of speech. In the case, the Supreme Court pronounced that freedom of speech or expression is always available to the individual whether in school or in any other place. The court ruled that people do not shed their constitutional freedom of speech before entering a place like a school.
Furthermore, freedom of speech is important due to its ability to bring change. Through free speech, numerous changes have been achieved in the country and in the world. For instance, due to the freedom of speech, women gained the right to vote as African American did. They used the freedom of speech to agitate for changes, which helped them attain equality. Further, this fundamental freedom does not only allow people to speak their minds but also require them to listen to others. Sharing views with each other is important for the prosperity of the country as cohesion is created. With the freedom of speech, one is able to challenge bigoted views, as bad ideas are most effectively defeated by good ideas.
Additionally, freedom of speech is central to the concept of American political system. Experts argue that there exists a positive relationship between freedom of speech and vibrant democracy. Accordingly, free speech is one of the indispensable tools of self-governance in a liberal society. Through free speech, people are able to gather information from numerous sources, make a decision and share such decision with the government. Moreover, the first amendment, which sets out the freedom of expression, provides the U.S. citizens with an avenue for sharing ideas. Instead of having a system where the government exclusively establish and dictate the truth, freedom of speech makes it possible for the truth to come from diverse opinions. As espoused bu Justice Louis Brandeis in the case of Whitney v. California (1927), “freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth.” The freedom of speech is further considered superior because, on the communal level, it ensure the rule of the majority. Through conversing, people are able to reach consensus and come up with a collective stand. Regardless of whether the answers arrived at are wise or not, free speech guarantees that they conform to the views of the majority. In the long run, free speech leads to better political decision-making.
How free speech has changed over time
Despite the First Amendment seemingly being absolute in the protection of freedom of expression, it has taken the judicial system to protect and improve this liberty. The Supreme Court in the United States has made major determinations which have expanded the freedom and reduced restrictions on the media as well as other means of expression. A good example is Slander and national security which were traditionally common justifications for restricting speech but this has changed with time. Despite the existence of some genuine claims to restrict speech in the prevention of outright defamation or political violence, such reasons were at times broadly interpreted and used to restrict speech in important ways. for instance, in the case of New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), the Supreme Court ruling created a new legal standard that protected individuals and the media both in the distribution of information as well as expression of views on public policy. In another case of Schenck v. the United States (1919), the Supreme Court upheld the powers of the executive to maintain public order limiting free speech from being misused. Generally, the protection of free speech has undergone major transformation especially with relation to media protection.
Currently, the freedom of speech is very much respected in the United Sates. Individuals and media have the right to form opinions even against the government without fear of punishment. With the widespread of the internet, free speech has been enhanced further with an increase in the platform to express one opinion. However, the challenge remain misuse of free speech to defame other especially in the digital platforms
From the foregoing, it is evident that free speech the most fundamental civil liberty provided by the bill of rights. It is the foundation for all the other freedoms provided for in the bill of rights. Freedom of speech contributes to the development of a country, through sharing of opinions and making appropriate decisions. The freedom of speech have changed over time and continues to do so.
Feinberg, Barbara. Explaining the Bill of Rights. Scholastic. 1987. Web.
Timms, Josie. Why is free speech important? 2016. Xi index. Web
United States Courts. What Does Free Speech Mean? 2017. Web.