To Stay Silent or to Not — The Future of Free Speech

Jaylee Flowers
7 min readJul 22, 2020

Freedom of Speech is one of the many things that individuals have controversial opinions on in regards to the Constitution. Some even want the Constitution to be abolished or re-written because it does not fit their ‘agenda’.

Despite everyone’s separate opinions, the first amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Free speech was implemented within the Constitution to allow everyone; regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, or status, to preach what they believe in without harm or charges.

Now in 2020, things have changed and the future of free speech is failing in terms of the education systems and media. Many even believe that free speech, when not agreed with, is considered hate speech.

In David Murphy’s article;

He sheds light on his worries in relation to the world and free speech.

He writes, “Back in 2016, Canadian lawmakers were debating a proposed law, known as Bill C-16, that would provide protections towards transgender and gender-diverse citizens, or individuals who identify with a non-traditional or non-stereotypical concept of gender. However, the main controversy over the bill was the authority given to Government to determine whether using the incorrect pronoun to identify an individual was constituted a hate crime and was deemed illegal by this bill.”

Murphy believes that, “You can’t squash someone’s differing viewpoint by disallowing them to speak. Not only will they harden their stance, but they will lose respect for you. The great divide in this country is a direct result of the inability to hear other’s viewpoints and to understand why they hold their position.”

Individuals are also being ‘punished’ for their usage of freedom of speach on social media.

According to Emily Kokot, in her article;

A recent study found that over half of Wisconsin colleges “substantially restrict free speech.” Many public Wisconsin universities have two designated areas on campus that may be used for “unplanned free speech events.”

Also, according to McKenna Dallmeyer, in her article;

A new survey finds that a majority of students favor some restrictions on campus speech. Dallmeyer also reveals that, “The finding is part of an annual free speech survey of college students.”

The new (Gallup) survey found the majority of students believe colleges should, “ Be able to restrict at least some speech, mainly when it comes to the use of racial slurs and offensive costumes.”

The student also found that even though the majority of America’s youth believed free speech is essential but many were not aware of the protections of the first amendment.

According to the survey, “Twenty-one percent of students said that the government can restrict citizens’ speech and 13 percent said they are unsure. Forty-eight percent of students said that “hate speech” is not protected by the First Amendment. More specifically, only 23 percent of self-identified Democrat students know that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, compared with 48 percent of Republican students.”

Many students all around the United States are silenced and suffer that they will be silenced when choosing to advocate for conservative views in their classes. Based on the survey, “Political conservatives rank last for being able to ‘freely and openly express their views’ when compared to other groups such as LGBT students, Muslims, and racial minorities.” Only, “49 [%] of conservatives believe conservative students can speak freely and openly on their campus [, and] 96 [%] of liberals say conservative students can openly express their views.”

Although, “Fifty-five percent of Republicans feel ‘somewhat uncomfortable’ or ‘very uncomfortable’ with sharing their views in class compared to 31 percent of Democrats. Democrat students responded more favorably to restrictions on speech than Republicans did.”

In relation to religion, when asked about a specific scenario such as groups passing out Christian pamphlets, “17 [%] said colleges should be able to restrict such activity. Additionally, if students started a campus ground interested in ‘defending Americans’ gun ownership rights, 22 [%] responded in favor of restricting such a group’s status.”

A student by the name of Caroline Stella, a junior at Xavier University, told Campus Reform, “Students are free to believe whatever they want. That is what makes America so great. However, I believe it is inappropriate for colleges to restrict speech because doing so would remove the ability to openly discuss issues with people who have differing opinions. I also believe that restricting free speech would be immensely harmful to universities.”

According to Tahmineh Dehbozorgi, in her article;

“On campuses across the country, students are being told by administrators that they must limit their First Amendment protected speech to certain areas, or that they must first obtain a permit.”

According to Seth Segal in his article;

“In a recent speech, a University of North Carolina professor suggested that freedom of speech was responsible for racism in the United States.”

This professor, later denied that what he said was his intention, and he later said that he only meant to suggest that, “Racists have freedom of speech as well.”

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a professor, according to the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, “Gave a lecture on free speech as part of a two-day lecture called “Tribalism, Voicelessness, and the Problem of Free Speech.”

In an audio recording of this speech, Eric King Watts can be heard quoting Steven Cocken calling Robert Muller’s report “an unambiguous ethical indictment of Trump’s campaign and Presidency.” He also refers to “the ongoing radicalization of the Republican party.”

The audio will be shown below.

He is heard to say that,“The very idea of freedom, postulated in universalist terms in the 19th century, and serving as the ontological structure for the First Amendment, doesn’t allow the black,” Watts insisted.

According to Gabriel Nadales, in his article;

He states that, “To live in a truly free society means defending all speech, even that which you don’t like.”

In New York City, recently the term “illegal alien,” has been banned and being caught saying it can result in an individual being fined of up to $250,000. Also according to Nadales, “In Massachusetts, Democrat lawmaker Daniel Hunt’s bill ban[s] the word “bitch” by imposing a fine of $150 or $200, or jail time of up to six months was debated in the state legislature.”

A Professor by the name of Jeremy Waldron from New York University and he makes the argument in support of these types of laws as he once wrote, “each person, each member of each group, should be able to go about his or her business, with the assurance that there will be no need to face hostility, violence, discrimination, or exclusion by other.”

Nadales continues to express that, “Immediately, these types of laws raise the question of enforcement. The only way to properly and thoroughly enforce laws like these is either through constant surveillance or a peer reporting system, which has a striking similarity to the type of ancient Puritan legal system. The most effective way to confront offensive speech is with words of decency. More speech, not less, is the answer.”

According to the Women History Blog;

“Puritans lived under harsh rules.” The puritans professed to love liberty, but the individual Puritan was, “Restrained by strict laws that governed every area of his life — even his family relations. [For example,] A man could not kiss his wife in public. [According to Captain Kimble] upon his return from a three-year voyage, [he] kissed his wife on his own doorstep, and [later] spent two hours in the pillory for his lewd and unseemly behavior.”

The first amendment is not the only thing that has become infringed like the Puritans in 1630, but, According to Katherine Timpf in her article;

“A student at Michigan State University filed a bias complaint against his roommate for watching a Ben Shapiro video.”

His roommate suggested that,“Ben Shapiro is known for his inflammatory speech that criticizes and attacks the African American community,” He also continues to say that, “I thought hate had no place on MSU’s campus yet MSU has roomed me with someone who supports hate speech.”

The future of free speech is in the hands of our future generations. What will happen for the rest of 2020? What will happen in the next five years? Who decides that what we say is okay? Ourselves? or others?

Will we have to choose to stay silent or to not?