Symbolic Speech Should Be Protected Essay

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Why Symbolic Speech Should Be Protected

1. The measure of a great society is the ability of its citizens to tolerate the viewpoints of those with whom they disagree. As Voltaire once said, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (Columbia). This right to express one's opinion can be characterized as “freedom of speech.” The concept of “freedom of speech” is a Constitutional right in the United States, guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution:

“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
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2. Very little expression is “mere” speech. Under the broad category of free speech is the concept of “symbolic speech.”

“Expression may be symbolic, as well as verbal. Symbolic speech is conduct that expresses an idea. Although speech is commonly thought of as verbal expression, we are all aware of nonverbal communication. Sit-ins, flag waving, demonstrations, and wearing…protest buttons are examples of symbolic speech. While most forms of conduct could be said to express ideas in some way, only some conduct is protected as symbolic speech. In analyzing such cases, the courts ask whether the speaker intended to convey a particular message, and whether it is likely that the message was understood by those who viewed it. In order to convince a court that symbolic conduct should be punished and not protected as speech, the government must show it has an important reason. However, the reason cannot be that the government disapproves of the message conveyed by the symbolic conduct” (Arbertman 442-3).

Expressive conduct may consist of flying a particular flag as a symbol or in refusing to salute a flag as a symbol. Symbolic speech is a principle which must be upheld by the American government, no matter who is offended. There are many different aspects…