Why restrict free speech on Independence Day?

Published 9:15 am Monday, July 14, 2008

Since when does a statement like “Illegal immigrants cost jobs, hospitals and courts” rise to the level of inflammatory? I find those throwing rocks to be at fault for taking issue with one of America’s greatest rights — the rights to free speech.

While the courts have ruled that time, manner and place can be regulated, content cannot. In this case if you regulate a sign, what next? A T-shirt, a flier, the American flag? The courts in reviewing a lawsuit in such a case would determine, of course, whether the regulation is aimed primarily at conduct, as is the case with time, place, and manner regulations, or whether instead the aim is to regulate content of speech.

It is without question that what they are looking at is content. In a series of decisions, the Supreme Court refused to permit restrictions on parades and demonstrations, and reversed convictions imposed for breach of the peace and similar offenses, when, in the court’s view, disturbance had resulted from opposition to the messages being uttered by demonstrators.

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If parade organizers don’t issue a permit, what is to say that I don’t apply for one and let them march with my parade entry? Would I object to others that are entered because I don’t like their message?

A parade on the Fourth of July celebrating our independence, and we are thinking about restrictions on speech? Ridiculous!

David Anderson