Going back in time, the Americans suffered so much from the British soldiers’ widespread violation of basic human rights. That is why when the US was freed from the British colonization, the first thing that James Madison intended to do was to amend the constitution and insert the basic provision contained in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights included the first amendment. The first amendment is basically concerns the freedom of speech and religion. As an American citizen, each of us is entitled to freely express our opinions and our faith.
But even with this privilege, we must make sure that we are not inciting any immoral or illegal acts in the things that we express. If not, then our supposed privilege to express ourselves will be subject to the scrutiny of the government. The Case of 44 Liquormart In connection with this, one of the first amendment cases which reached the Supreme Court was that of 44 Liquormart Inc. v. Rhode Island. In this case, the plaintiff protested against Rhode Island prohibiting the advertisement of liquor prices in the vicinity. Why the Need for Supreme Court Intervention?
Looking at this case closely, it is not simply a protest against the freedom to advertise. The first amendment is seen here is the bulwark of expression and this is the perfect case to exhibit what happens when the state infringes that right. Rhode Island has the perfect excuse in the form of the 21st Amendment. This clause regulates the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in certain American states. But the Supreme Court overruled that prohibiting the alcoholic drinks seller from advertising his products does not forward the cause of Rhode Island officials.
If temperance is the goal then direct control over the product and not the advertising of prices will solve the problem. How Will This Affect American Citizens Today? What is so special about this case is that it became the basis of subsequent attacks of government institutions against sellers of alcoholic beverages and other related vices. As mentioned by Justice Stevens, “the special nature of commercial speech…authorizes the State to regulate potentially deceptive or overreaching advertising more freely than other forms of protected speech” (Cornell University Law School, 2010). 44 Liquormart, Inc.
’s advertisement was neither deceptive nor misleading. All the information contained in the advertising copy were accurate and reflected good taste. In addition to this, Rhode Island admittedly failed to justify why they have to prohibit companies from advertising their products. If the government wanted to forward temperance then there is a more proactive way of doing that without keeping them from the advertising realm. The Case of Watchtower Bible & Tract Society Like any other religious organization, the Jehovah’s Witness congregation concentrates on spreading the word of Jehovah by personally preaching to non-believers.
In one such instance, the Jehovah’s Witnesses went to the Village of Stratton in Ohio but was denied access to the private village because they did not secure a permit from the city mayor. Why the Need for Supreme Court Intervention? As stated in the first amendment, “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (Cornell University Law School). Clearly, there is prior restraint in compelling the Jehovah’s Witnesses to secure a permit first before conducting their word preaching in the neighborhood of Stratton, Ohio.
But what makes this case a little more complicated is that the village is a private area. The mayor may state that he is simply protecting the interest of the people in the neighborhood. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was the only dissenting justice during the trial. Justice Rehnquist said that allowing the Jehovah’s Witnesses to enter the community without the mayor’s permit “deprived Stratton residents of the degree of accountability and safety that the permit requirement provides” (US Supreme Court Media, 2010).
How Will This Affect American Citizens Today? While this is a purely religious case, the result of this case transcends to other aspects affected by the first amendment provisions. Proselytizing is a sensitive issue because the freedom to preach about religion is stated in the Bill of Rights under the First Amendment. However, certain private communities or the governing body of the community also has the prerogative to resist the entry of these religious sects into their villages.
This court case provides a basis for further lawsuits filed against people who ban religious missionaries from going to places to preach. The Case of New York Times v. Sullivan This is one of the cases often cited when studying press freedom. New York Times v. Sullivan is a classic case about libel and the defense of NYT which is the “freedom of speech and freedom of press protections” (US Supreme Court Media, 2010). When Sullivan accused the publication for defamation, he was awarded $500,000 in damages.
When it was appealed and that case reached the Supreme Court, there were other factors that were taken into consideration in this case. Why the Need for Supreme Court Intervention? The Supreme Court was first to use the idea of malice in adjudicating cases of libel and defamation. Malice is such a critical factor for the decision because not being able to prove the there was “malicious intent” makes the author or the speaker “innocent” while he was delivering or writing the remarks. How Will This Affect American Citizens Today?
Because of this court case, cases of libel and slander are already adjudicated on various grounds. Today, cases of libel are based on four elements. The first element is the existence of the defamatory message. Second is the publication of the material (which is not limited to being “printed” as in the use of print media but also other forms of information dissemination). Third is that there was a clear reference to the defamatory material. And lastly, a proof that the reputation of the complainant was in fact jeopardized. Conclusion
The first amendment is one of the most commonly used defense or basis of legal action against people. Its provisions transcend to various social aspects such as religion, freedom of expression, and liberty to execute business communication so long as it does not endanger the lives and the interest of the state and its people. Bibliography Cornell University Law School. (2010). 44 Liquormart, Inc. , et al. v. Rhode Island et al. (94-1140), 517 U. S. 484 (1996). Retrieved August 9, 2010, from Legal Information Institute: http://www. law. cornell. edu/supct/html/94-1140.
ZS. html Cornell University Law School. (n. d. ). Bill of Rights. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from Legal Information Institute: http://topics. law. cornell. edu/constitution/billofrights US Supreme Court Media. (2010). New York Times v. Sullivan. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from The Oyez Project: http://www. oyez. org/cases/1960-1969/1963/1963_39/ US Supreme Court Media. (2010). Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York v. Village of Stratton. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from The Oyez Project: http://www. oyez. org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_1737/