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What is Free Speech in America?

May 7, 2015
Plain English Version


The First Amendment to the Constitution is the most sacred text in America.

Americans are familiar with the right to practice our religion, speak our minds, enjoy a free press and gather together to demonstrate peacefully.

The tradition of free speech is part of the fabric of the country.

However, the meaning of free speech is never settled. Take the case of the killings at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. The magazine showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed. Islamic law forbids images of the Prophet.

Free speech was shut down when the shots were fired. Threats continue from Islamic terrorists to kill people who insult their beliefs.

Some famous writers wondered if the magazine had gone too far in running the cartoons. They said if you are trying to provoke people do not be surprised when they react.

Is killing someone ever the answer? Of course, the answer is “No.”

A group of writers protested an honor given to the magazine. They say it is not a matter of free speech because it was not the government that killed the writers. It was just criminals. Others say it is the job of the government to protect writers. Many believe that insulting speech is the speech that has to be most safeguarded.

The other day, police in Texas killed two Muslims using automatic weapons, who attacked a rally making fun of Islamic restrictions. The rally was a “hate” event. But in America, free speech trumps everything.

Most people in their daily lives do not test the limits of free speech. However, it is a freedom to be guarded carefully.

Source: The New York Times May 6, 2015


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