Free Speech Assignment

Free Speech Assignment






The law is over broad and cannot be justified on its requirement that picketing be restricted to 500 feet. Considering the ruling of the court in the case of Madsen et al. v. Women’s Health Center, Inc., et al, it can also be argued that this provision is too broad than it’s necessary to ensure smooth running of funeral rite and giving the fallen hero last respect. Funeral ceremony location is a place that people are supposed to gather. In addition, a burial rite for public officers is expected to raise different emotions from the member of the public. As a result, limiting the time, number of pickets and duration of picketing could have delivered the desired outcome. It would have been more reasonable to limit the timing of the picketing to avoid interference during the funeral ceremony. Additionally, limiting the number of pickets and their duration can also be a justifiable act to control public behavior and perception. This can avoid creating wide range public outcry that can make the bereaved families feel their sons and daughters are not appreciated for their service.

The court should invoke the Bias Motivated Crime Ordinance, highlighted in R.A.V. v City of St. Paul, to find picketers guilty of violating the law. The phrases in the ordinance like arouse anger, resentment and alarm; give it powers to fight crimes committed by speech. These picketers targeted specific groups of people and their mode of argument amounted to arousing anger and resentment. They also carried symbols that indicated their resentment towards the gay people and blamed them for the problems that have befallen America. This ordinance provides for tolerance and cannot accommodate such kind of divisive words. In addition, it provides for protection against these kinds of expression that are not covered under the constitution. It protects the members of the public from bias motivated threats that can result in disruption of law and order as well as the general tranquility of the public environment.

It is also illegal to intimidate a particular person or group in the way the picketers did with homosexual group. The court ruling in Virginia v. Black et al behavior of burning of the cross considered the act to be a hate speech that is prohibited by the first amendment. A parallel can also be drawn between these two acts in that it stems from a similar tradition like the cross burning. The court explained that the behavior of burning the cross originated from Ku Klux Klan that terrorized southern whites and blacks that were not in agreement with it during its formation. In their case they used cross burning as an intimidation sign and a threat that they would commit violence against a particular group. These picketers carried particular signs abusing homosexuals. As a result, they have contravened this provision of the first amendment. They directly engaged in intimidation of this group and unless their behavior is quelled they are likely to disrupt peace and security of the nation. In addition, this group of picketers expression that they were grateful for the 9/11 attack is an indication that their intimidation can spill over to causing bodily harm. As a result, the court may regulate these prurient contents.

In conclusion, the decision to limit picketing to more than 500feet is overbroad, but the court might invoke provision in first amendment that prohibits intimidation.


Works Cited

Madsen et al. v. Women’s Health Center, Inc., et al. (93-880), 512 U.S. 753. 1994. Retrieved from:

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, Minnesota (90-7675), 505 U.S. 377 (1992) Retrieved from:

Virginia v. Black (01-1107) 538 U.S. 343 (2003) Retrieved from:


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