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1 George Campos American National Government Tuesday and Thursday 10:30-11:45 November 21, 2013

Extremism and the Constitution: How Americas Legal Evolution Affect the Response to Extremism Brian Levin The American Behavioral Scientist Vol. 45 No. 4 (2001)

The United States is a distinctive country, especially our First Amendment. We are granted a freedom unlike any other country. The First Amendment's is distinctive among the Bill of Rights in its obvious strength in limiting the control of government. In todays society there are multiple controversial issues at hand; one of the most recent topics is the First Amendment. Are we allowed too much freedom, are we taking it for granted, or should be have more? The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances." Arguments about the level of its protections started soon after ratification and continue to present day with some enhancements due to social media. Though total freedom granted by the first amendment has lately become a more prominent controversial because some worry that too much freedom will lead to violence. Should we be limited? Will this freedom lead to violence? Many Americans have started to ask these posing questions about the First Amendment. Some argue that if we controlled more before the violence occurs then lives would be saved. The main question is the First Amendment leading citizens towards extremism and violence? The journal article Extremism and the Constitution focuses on sensitive and associational criminal law issues relating to extremism violence against Americans in relation the First Amendment. Also expanding on the First Amendments ratification, the debate between Jefferson who supported the needed for a Bill of Rights specifically the First Amendment and a skeptical Hamilton that stated it was unrealistic. The First Amendment restrains the government in order for the people to have liberty and freedom. The journal article goes through how the First Amendment is separate from the other amendments and separates the United States as a country from others. The constant debate over the First Amendment and what is lawful and is

not lawful has been brought to Court on more than one occasion. The current state of First Amendment protections in the United States offers a broad range of protections for even the most offensive kinds of nonviolent activities and speech undertaken by extremists. It is not a rare refrain from people of goodwill to "just do something" about the myriad violent, hateful, false, and offensive messages communicated by extremists. Unfortunately, during the course of American history, punishable "extremism" has often been in the eye of the beholder. Today's extremists are the beneficiaries of an evolved interpretation of the First Amendment that was not available to controversial figures of earlier eras. (Levin 714). The First Amendment doesnt just protect the freedom of speech it covers religion, symbolism (nonverbal), press, and assembly. American citizens are allowed the freedom to meet and discuss whatever we feel, wear anything that we want, and print anything. Extremism and the Constitution used multiple criminal cases to support that the First Amendment stands and that prosecution doesnt happen over someone using offensive language or wearing offensive clothing, the Court prosecutes criminals if they become violent and a danger to society. In some cases if aware the government can use prior restraint to restrain an action before action if there it is potentially harmful. Every hour of everyday a person can say or do something offensive towards another; this is a fact of life not a criminal offense. Each person has their own set of beliefs and has the freedom to express their thoughts and beliefs and if a group shares a particular set of beliefs and ideas that group has the right to assemble and discuss and/or portray those ideas without repercussions. Levin illustrates with Court cases and quotes from other scholars that the Court can interpret aspects different and may enact mild regulations the First Amendment will allow freedom for American citizens. The Supreme Court held that the Constitution protects even the

most unpopular and offensive type of speech in a case involving flag burning, In 1989, in Texas vs. Johnson, the Supreme Court ruled that state laws that prohibited the burning of the American flag as part of a peaceful protest also violated the freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment. Congress responded by passing the Flag Protection Act of 1989, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June 1990. Congress and President George H. W. Bush immediately pledged to work for a constitutional amendment to protect our flag an effort that has yet to be successful. In 2003, however, the Supreme Court held that a Virginia statue prohibiting the burning of a cross with an intent to intimidate did not violate the First Amendment. The Court concluded that burning cross is an instrument of racial terror so threatening that it overshadows free speech concerns. (Schmidt 107). Levin compares Court cases debating the shift of views in the Court, though unless violence or potential violence has occurred the Court will rule that the First Amendment protects the American citizens freedoms. Until an act becomes violent the Court a person is not breaking the law. The Courts ruling may be surprising to the public, but it is the very publics liberties that the Court is trying to protect. The effect of Johnson was immediate, suggesting the extreme public outrage over the Courts failure to protect the flag. In this case the Supreme Courts was a catalyst, sparking system wide concern over an issue that previously was not under active consideration by either institution. The decision mobilized the media and a concern public, which in turn resulted in increased attention both by the president and Congress. The Courts surprising and unexpected decision caused an immediate uproar that ignited demands for federal action. (Flemming 1243). In Extremism and the Constitution Levin sides with the Supreme Court even as this is entirely offensive to the United States as a country, speech symbolic or spoken is a right for all Americans. Many agree with Levin that offensive actions shouldnt be

illegal; though some will disagree at the same time stating the American flag is sacred symbolism for unity among the States. The state defended Johnsons conviction as necessary to prevent a breach of the peace and to protect the flag as a unique symbol of American unity. The court rejected both arguments, concluding that flag burning was symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment. (McCormick 1684). The First Amendment was created to protect the people of the United States and the Supreme Court is enforcing that. Offensive speech is a persons prerogative, Americans pride themselves in being from the land of the free, yet the public is complaining about the lack of regulations on the First Amendment. Closely related to hate crimes is the problem of regulating hate speech within the constraints of our first Amendment speech rights, which do not protect speech with social value so slight that its benefits do not outweigh society's moral and social interests (Wiener 464). I agree with Levin, offensive speech is part of life and should not be illegal. Americans take pride in their freedoms until it offends them, saying one shouldnt be allowed to touch sacred property. The national flag is a clear symbol of nation, and its use in all the circumstances detailed below is intended to convey a viewpoint about that nation, or more specifically about certain policies being pursued, or policies that the speakers think ought to be pursued, by that nation. There are many ways in which a nations flag can be used as a medium of political expression. (Gelber 165). Though that is the whole purpose of the First Amendment is let the people have a voice to say what they feel. The Bill of Rights was implemented to control the amount of regulations the government can put on American citizens. The First Amendment is no different and is doing exactly what it was designed for.

Flemming, R. B. Bohte, J. (October 1997). One voice among many: The Supreme Court's Influence on Attentiveness to Issues in the United States. American Journal of Political Science. Vol. 41 No. 4, p1224. 27p. Gelber, K. (March 2012). Political Culture, Flag Use and Freedom of Speech. Political Studies. Vol. 60 No. 1, p163-179. 17p. McCormick, C. H. (March 1999). Burning the Flag: The Great 1989-90 American Flag Desecration Controversy. Journal of American History. Vol. 85 No. 4, p1684-1685. Schmidt, S. Shelley, M. Bardes, B. Ford, L. (2013). American Government and Politics Today. Wiener, R. (December 2008). Symbolic Hate: Intention to Intimidate, Political, Ideology, and Group Association. Law and Human Behavior. Vol. 32, No. 6, p. 463-476.