The First Freedoms
The Privacy Amendments
The 5th Amendment
The 6th Amendment
Civil Trials
The Interpretive Rules

Freedom of Speech and Press

Expression and Thought

Benefits to be gained by free speech can be both political and non-political. Core political speech is one of the most protected types of speech. Benefits of non-political speech include the advancement of knowledge and the arts. The more freely a society can express itself, the more knowledge it gains and the more creative it can be. Madison believed that writers are as necessary as any other profession to a flourishing republic, for “they are the cultivators of the human mind—the manufacturers of useful knowledge—the agents of the commerce of ideas—the censors of public manners—the teachers of the arts of life and the means of happiness.”

One other benefit of free speech is perhaps the most important of all: freedom of speech protects freedom of thought. Moreover, suppression of speech leads to suppression of thought. This is not to say that an irresponsible or vicious use of speech never causes harm, for it can and does. Over time, the meaning of “speech” has been broadened to include many other forms of nonverbal expression. Nevertheless, there are certain forms of speech that the courts agree cannot be tolerated, even at the expense of an individual’s wish to express himself freely. The difficulty for the courts remains with determining where to draw that line.