Freedom of Speech

Think before you speak! Be careful with your words. Speak wisely! We have been told since we were kids to be aware of what we say. We have been taught how powerful words can be and how we ought to be careful when using them.Our founding fathers also placed a great deal of value on our right to speak. So much so that they made it the first part of our Bill of Rights: The Freedom of Speech. Over the years, speech has evolved to include not only the printed medium, but to also include anything that has been said on the Internet. In fact, our proclivity to blurt out our thoughts before we can digest them, often leads to us writing things in an emotional state on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. With this in mind,  many Americans wonder if the concept of freedom of speech should exist today. Our courts have be inundated with cases that address our right to free speech. So, how do the privileges guaranteed in the Bill of Rights – specifically the Freedom of Speech – apply to modern American Life? How do contemporary challenges to the Right to Free Speech affect the Constitution of the United States of America?

The first case I studied was the Lane v. Franks. This case involved a public employee’s fight for his freedom of speech in the context of revenge. Edward Lane was the director of the Community Intensive Training for Youth Program (CITY) at the Central Alabama Community College (CACC). In 2006, while auditing CITY’s finances, Lane found out that Suzanne Schmitz, a state representative who was on the CITY’s payroll, had never performed work for the program. Lane was told that, by contacting Schmitz and terminating her employment, he would bring negative attention to the CACC and himself. However, after Schmitz refused to work, Lane terminated her contract with CITY. In retaliation, Schmitz sue to get her job back. Steve Franks, president of CACC at the time, wanted to reduce the workforce because of budget cuts. In 2008, Franks sent termination letters to Lane and twenty-nine other CITY members who were under probation and served less than three years. However, a few days later, Franks rescinded all of the terminations except for Lane and one other employee because he claimed those employees were not under probation. Lane sued Franks because he argued that his termination was a result of his testifying against Schmitz during her trial. Therefore, his termination was a violation of his First Amendment rights.[1]

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