Why Is Freedom of Speech Important?

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Freedom of speech protects everyone from all walks of life to think and express themselves freely. Without this guaranteed freedom, unpopular opinions would be hidden out of fear of retribution, change and progress would come to a screeching halt and all of the other freedoms listed throughout the Constitution and all of the amendments that follow would crumble.

In areas of the world where freedom of speech is not protected, citizens are afraid to speak out against their government, even when it acts illegally, for fear of being locked away in a cell for life. According to the University of Virginia, historically, men, women and even some children were put to death for daring to speak out against a tyrannical monarch, an unjust parliament or legislature or even a powerful corporation.

Fortunately, in the first amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees a person the freedom to speak and express himself however he wishes, just so long that his actions do not infringe on the rights of another person. Even in the American Colonies, prohibitions on free speech were rampant. Virginia had a law in its charter that would grant the death penalty for anyone who “blasphemed God’s holy name.”

According to Justia.com, one of the most overlooked part of the guarantee of free speech is the fact that it causes sweeping change in ways that the government itself can never quite accomplish. Justice Thurgood Marshall stated, “above all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”

The change is gay marriage laws is one example of how the actions of a free society lobbying, protesting, distributing fliers and debating caused sweeping changes in public perception and the law in a relatively small amount of time. Without freedom of speech, the voices of this minority would have never been heard.