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Vulgar Language & Pictures in Public Places, Essay Example

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Essay

The premise is this paper involves the case of the Bloomsburg University student arrested for shouting obscenities while standing nude on the steps of the Columbia County Courthouse on Main Street while handing out literature calling for the overthrow of Pennsylvania’s government and wearing a backpack with an explicit colour picture of a man and woman procreating visible on the back panel of the bag.  The student was convicted of breaking Bloomsburg’s ordinance prohibiting “vulgar language and pictures in public places.” The civil liberties in question include freedom of speech and freedom of expression, both of which have a strong background of case histories to draw from in defence of the student’s actions.  Additionally, the issues of public nudity and the use of vulgar language in public spaces are also points of contention that will be addressed in this discourse.  The analysis of several case histories will indicate substantial support for the conviction of the student for the use of vulgar language and the presentation of vulgar pictures in public spaces but no conviction on the public nudity.

Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California (1957),

In an earlier instance regarding the distribution or sale of printed materials that are lascivious, obscene, lewd, or filthy, or other publications of an indecent character, the prosecution for the state of California convicted the defendant under the obscenity statute (Roth v. United States 1957).  Following the conviction, the defendant appealed and it was finally determined that the federal obscenity statute punishing the mailing of vulgar or offensive material and the California obscenity statute should make punishable, inter alia, the possession with intent to distribute or advertising of material that is indecent or obscene, do not offend constitutional safeguards against convictions based upon protected material nor do they violate constitutional requirements of due process by failing to give adequate notice of what is prohibited.  Libellous utterances are not within the area of constitutionally protected speech. U.S.C.A.Const. Amends 1, 14. Protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people, and all ideas having even slightest redeeming social importance have full protection of guaranties, unless excludable because they encroach upon limited area of more important interests. U.S.C.A. Const.Amends. 1, 14. Obscenity is not within area of constitutionally protected speech or press. U.S.C.A.Const. Amends. 1, 14.

New York v. Ferber (1982)

Bookstore proprietor was convicted under a New York statute prohibiting persons from knowingly promoting a sexual performance by a child under the age of 16 by distributing material which depicted such a performance, and he appealed. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court affirmed, and appeal was taken. The New York Court of Appeals, 52 N.Y.2d 674, 439 N.Y.S.2d 863, 422 N.E.2d 523, reversed, holding that statute violated the First Amendment as being both underinclusive and overbroad, and the State filed a petition for certiorari. The Supreme Court, Justice White, held that: (1) child pornography is not entitled to First Amendment protection provided the conduct to be prohibited is adequately defined by applicable state law, as written or authoritatively construed; (2) New York statute was not unconstitutionally under-inclusive; and (3) New York statute was not substantially overbroad (New York v. Ferber 1982).

Reversed and remanded. Opinion on remand, 57 N.Y.2d 256, 441 N.E.2d 1100, 455 N.Y.S.2d 582.  Justice Blackmun concurred in the result.  Justice O’Connor filed a concurring opinion.  Justice Brennan, with whom Justice Marshall joined, filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.  Justice Stevens filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.  States are entitled to a greater leeway in regulation of pornographic depictions of children. Child pornography is not entitled to First Amendment protection, provided the conduct to be prohibited is adequately defined by applicable state law, as written or authoritatively construed. U.S.C.A.Const.Amend. 1.

Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (1997)

Plaintiffs filed suit challenging constitutionality of provisions of Communications Decency Act (CDA) provisions seeking to protect minors from harmful material on the Internet.  Sexual expression which is indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment. Provisions of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) prohibiting transmission of obscene or indecent communications by means of telecommunications device to persons under age 18, or sending patently offensive communications through use of interactive computer service to persons under age 18, were content-based blanket restrictions on speech, and, as such, could not be properly analyzed on First Amendment challenge as a form of time, place, and manner regulation. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 1; Communications Act of 1934, § 223(a, d), as amended, 47 U.S.C.A. § 223(a, d).  A three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, convened pursuant to the CDA, 929 F.Supp. 824, entered preliminary injunction against enforcement of provisions.  The Supreme Court, Justice Stevens, held that: (1) provisions of the CDA prohibiting transmission of obscene or indecent communications by means of telecommunications device to persons under age 18, or sending patently offensive communications through use of interactive computer service to persons under age 18, were content-based blanket restrictions on speech, and, as such, could not be properly analyzed on First Amendment challenge as a form of time, place, and manner regulation; (2) challenged provisions were facially overbroad in violation of the First Amendment; and (3) constitutionality of provision prohibiting transmission of obscene or indecent communications by means of telecommunications device to persons under age 18 would be saved from facial over-breadth challenge by severing term “or indecent” from statute pursuant to its severability clause (Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union 1997).

Civil liberties organization brought action on behalf of World Wide Web publishers and others against Attorney General alleging that Child Online Protection Act (COPA) violated free speech guarantees. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Lowell A. Reed, Jr., J., 31 F.Supp.2d 473, issued preliminary injunction to prevent COPA’s enforcement. Attorney General appealed. The Court of Appeals, Garth, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) action was likely to succeed on merits; (2) publishers would be irreparably harmed absent issuance of preliminary injunction; (3) granting preliminary injunction would not result in even greater harm to United States than to publishers; and (4) granting preliminary injunction would be in public interest (Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union 2002).  It was affirmed that World Wide Web publishers had standing to bring First Amendment free speech challenge to Child Online Protection Act (COPA), inasmuch as COPA would impose liability on those publishers who profited from Web sites that contained some, even though not all, material that was harmful to minors, and publishers thus could reasonably fear prosecution because their sites contained material that was sexual in nature. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 1; Child Online Protection Act, § 1403, 47 U.S.C.A. § 231 (American Civil Liberties Union v. Reno 2000).

City of Erie v. Pap’s AM (2000)

Operator of establishment featuring nude erotic dancing brought action challenging constitutionality of city’s public indecency ordinance proscribing nudity in public places. The Court of Common Pleas, Erie County, Civil Division, No. 1994-60059, Shad Connelly, A.J., declared ordinance unconstitutional. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, 674 A.2d 338, Nos. 445 and 446 C.D. 1995, reversed. Operator appealed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Nos. 016 and 017 W.D. Appeal Docket 1997, reversed. Certiorari was granted, and operator moved to dismiss case as moot. The Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor, held that: (1) case was not rendered moot by closing of the establishment; (2) ordinance was content-neutral regulation; and (3) ordinance satisfied O’Brien standard for restrictions on symbolic speech (City of Erie v. Pap’s A.M. 2000).  Reversed and remanded.  Justice Scalia concurred in judgment and filed opinion in which Justice Thomas joined.  Justice Souter concurred in part and dissented in part and filed opinion.  Justice Stevens dissented and filed opinion in which Justice Ginsburg joined.  Suit by operator of establishment featuring nude erotic dancing, challenging constitutionality of city’s public indecency ordinance proscribing nudity in public places was not rendered moot by closing of the establishment, since operator was still incorporated, and could have decided to again operate nude dancing establishment in city; “advanced age” of owner did not make it “absolutely clear” that life of quiet retirement was his only reasonable expectation, and city had on-going injury because it was barred from enforcing ordinance (City of Erie v. Pap’s A.M. 2000).

Conclusion

Other issues, such as freedom of speech or religion are also commonly held beliefs.  Regardless of the political affiliation, all the candidates held the common notion that all people should be free to speak their minds and worship whatever God(s) they chose.  These essential benefits are allowances that all Americans consider automatic and foreigners travel to our shores in search of.  The ability to voice one’s thoughts or opinions without fear of condemnation is a right Americans are granted under our Constitution and politicians, Republican and Democratic alike, agree that this freedom is not negotiable.  However, there are some limitations to this right that both parties acknowledge that bear mentioning.

Although freedom of speech is nearly absolute, there are some instances that warrant punishment for the exercising of this constitutional right.  In circumstances where the individuals words or lack of words pose a threat to the judicial process or pose a threat to national security, the individual can be penalized and even incarcerated, depending upon the severity of the circumstances.  If an individual is supplying fraudulent information or denying the courts access to pertinent information or profiting from the trade of sensitive information that can be detrimental to the welfare of this country, the individual can be held liable for these actions.  On this measure, both parties are also in agreement concerning the validity of this exception to the rules regarding freedom of speech.

Establishment Clause of the First Amendment

There are also exceptions to the clauses regarding freedom of religion that both parties have taken note of.  Freedom of religion is also limited in important areas.  When the practice of a person’s religious beliefs has the potential to cause harm to another or an animal, the freedom to practice this religion is nullified.  Religious beliefs that require blood sacrifices or prevent parents from seeking proper medical care for sick children can cause the practitioner to suffer legal ramifications in association with such practices.  These exceptions to the rule of freedom of religion are agreed upon by members of both political parties.  Since animals and children are not able to defend their own rights, it is the duty of our judicial system to protect them.

The results obtained through unobtrusive research reveals that, overall, candidates from both parties support constitutional rights and the right of the public to exercise their rights.  However, on the policy of gun control and people’s right to bear arms, the opinions of the candidates diverge widely.  This analysis reveals that only 40% of Republican candidates support laws restricting, prohibiting, or banning the legal purchase firearms compared to an overwhelming 80% of Democratic candidates that are in favour of strident laws and restrictions limiting the purchase and possession of firearms.  However, a notable factor in this research analysis is that many of the Democrats that are in favour of restrictive gun policies are also in favour of a citizen’s right to bear arms.  This factor is also true for some of the Republicans that favour restrictive laws.

The results gathered through this research reveal an expected trend in the preferences of both political parties’ candidates.  Although Republicans are generally considered “conservative” and Democrats “liberal”, Republicans have developed a reputation for stringent support of Second Amendment and this trend is mirrored in the results.  Democrats have developed a reputation for contrariness to the mores Republicans adhere to, which is also mirrored in the research results.  However, the results are questionable because many of the Democrats that are in favour of gun control laws still maintain that they are in favour of guns, but with stricter laws and regulations governing the sale of guns and maintenance of paperwork certifying the purchaser’s ability to responsibly carry and utilize the weapon for protection and not for illegal purposes.  Although some candidates insist they are against guns as a whole, the major consensus is that the problem with guns stems from the freedom and ease by which criminals and unqualified persons, such as children, can gain access to these deadly weapons.

Works Cited

American Civil Liberties Union v. Reno. 217 F.3d 162 (3d Cir.vacated sub nom, 2000).

Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union. 535 U.S. 564 (122 S. Ct. 1700, 152 L. Ed. 2d 771, 2002).

City of Erie v. Pap’s A.M. 529 U.S. 277 (120 S. Ct. 1382, 146 L. Ed. 2d 265, 2000).

Jeppsen, Eric. “Uneven “Neutrality”: Dual Standards and the Establishment Clause in Johnson v. Poway.” Brigham Young University Law Review (Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost) 2 (2012): 543-558.

New York v. Ferber. 458 U.S. 747 (102 S. Ct. 3348, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1113, 1982).

Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union. 521 U.S. 844 (117 S. Ct. 2329, 138 L. Ed. 2d 874, 1997).

Roth v. United States. 354 U.S. 476 (77 S. Ct. 1304, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1498, 1957).

Wheeler, Brian. “The Pledge of Allegiance in the Classroom and the Court: An Epic Struggle over the Meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” Brigham Young University Education & Law Journal (Academic Search Complete, EBSCOHost) 2 (2008): 281-324.

 

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