Civil Rights & Civil Liberties

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1 Civil Rights & Civil Liberties (Expression) Name Government II - Halterman 1

2 Case 1: Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229 (1963) On March 2, 1961, approximately 190 black high school and college students met at the Zion Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina. From there they went, in groups of about 15, to the South Carolina State House. Their purpose was to protest racial segregation and discrimination in South Carolina. When they arrived at the State House, they walked peacefully through the grounds for about 45 minutes. Some carried placards protesting segregation. About 200 to 300 onlookers gathered to watch the protesters. The students were told that they would be arrested if they did not disperse (leave) within 15 minutes. They then proceeded to sing songs, clap their hands, and stamp their feet. After 15 minutes all of the protesters were arrested. They were subsequently prosecuted and found guilty of violating a statute that made it unlawful to breach the peace. 1. Do you think the South Carolina students should have been convicted for breach of the peace? Why or why not? 2. Do you think the conviction of the students violated their right to freedom of speech or their right to protest in order to bring about changes in government policies? Why or why not? What does the First Amendment say? 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. Case 2: Freedom of Speech - Fighting Words - Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942) Chaplinsky, a person who belonged to a religious sect know as Jehovah s Witnesses, was distributing the literature of the sect on the streets of Rochester, New Hampshire. Some persons allegedly became annoyed that Chaplinsky was stating that all religion was a racket. When a crowd near Chaplinsky became agitated because of Chaplinsky s statements, a police officer who was directing traffic in the area led Chaplinsky toward the police station. The officer did not say that Chaplinsky was under arrest. On the way to the police station, Chaplinsky and the officer met the city marshal. Chaplinsky and the marshal got into an argument. Chaplinsky allegedly said, You are a God damned racketeer and a damned Fascist and the whole government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists. Chaplinsky was arrested and prosecuted. He admitted saying all of the words except the word God. A New Hampshire statute made it unlawful to use certain language in public. It said: Government II - Halterman 2

3 No person shall address any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place, nor call him by an offensive or derisive name, nor make any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with intent to deride, offend or annoy him, or to prevent him from pursuing his lawful business or occupation. Chaplinsky was convicted of violating this statute. His conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, the highest court in the state. Chaplinsky then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. One of the issues before the U.S. Supreme Court was whether Chaplinsky s conviction violated his right to free speech. The Supreme Court ruled that words which by their very utterance inflict injury or intent to incite an immediate breach of the peace were not protected by the First Amendment and could be punished. The Supreme Court of the Untied States affirmed the conviction. What are the origins of the Freedom of Expression Clauses in the First Amendment? See class copy (p.19-21) Questions: 1. Explain the significance of the Licensing Act of 1662 in relation to the First Amendment. 2. Explain the significance of John Lilburne in relation to the First Amendment. 3. Explain the significance of John Peter Zenger in relation to the First Amendment. 4. Explain the significance of William Blackstone in relation to the First Amendment. The First Amendment Today - Freedom of Expression See class copy (p.23-28) Questions: 1. What did Justice Hugo Black mean by an absolute guarantee of freedom of speech? 2. Why did the Supreme Court make the decision it did in Edwards v. South Carolina? Do you agree with the decision? Why or why not? Government II - Halterman 3

4 3. What is symbolic speech? 4. What are two examples of symbolic speech not already mentioned in your reading? 5. What are three areas of free speech in which some limits do apply? 6. Explain the clear and present danger test. How has it changed since Schenck v. United States in 1919? 7. What are fighting words? 8. What does freedom of association mean? 9. What is prior restraint? Comparing First Amendment Cases Case 3: Feiner v. People of the State of New York, 340 U.S. 315 (1951) On March 8, 1949, in Syracuse, New York, a young man named Feiner was speaking to a crowd on a street corner. Feiner s speech was to protest the cancellation of a permit for a former Assistant Attorney General, O. John Rogge, to speak at a public school about racial discrimination and civil liberties. Although the permit to speak at the school was cancelled, Rogge s speech had been rescheduled for the Hotel Syracuse. Feiner, while speaking to the crowd, talked in derogatory terms about President Truman, the Mayor of Syracuse, and others. He also urged blacks to take up arms and fight for equal rights. Some persons in the crowd became angry and urged the police to stop Feiner s speech. Three time Government II - Halterman 4

5 police asked Feiner to stop speaking. He refused each time. He was then arrested and prosecuted for disorderly conduct. 1. As a judge, would you decide that Feiner s conduct was disorderly? Why or why not? 2. In your opinion were Feiner s First Amendment rights violated by his arrest? Why or why not? 3. Are the facts in the Feiner case different from those in Edwards v. South Carolina? If so, how are they different? Case 4: Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347 (1976) As a regular practice, newly elected sheriffs of Cook County, Illinois, would fire certain employees of the sheriff s department. The ones fired were non-civil service employees of a different political party who either would not switch parties or could not obtain support from the sheriff s political party. In 1970 when a new sheriff assumed office he continued the practice and sought to fire all of the non-civil service employees who opposed him politically. Some of them sued to retain their jobs, alleging a violation of their First Amendment right of freedom to associate with the political party of their choice. 1. As a judge, would you force the sheriff of Cook County to keep the old employees? Why or why not? 2. In your opinion, why is (or isn t) the First Amendment violated by firing employees of a different political party? 3. Does the sheriff s action violate the right to freedom of association? How? Government II - Halterman 5

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