Tuesday, February 02, 2016
The fighting words doctrine, in United States constitutional law, is a limitation to freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In 1942, the U.S. Supreme Court established the doctrine by a 9–0 decision in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. It held that "insulting or 'fighting words,' those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" are among the "well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech the prevention and punishment of [which] … have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem."
Chaplinsky, a Jehovah's Witness, had purportedly told a New Hampshire town marshal who was attempting to prevent him from preaching that he was "a God-damned racketeer" and "a damned fascist" and was arrested. The court upheld the arrest and wrote in its decision that
In R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992), the Court overturned a statute prohibiting speech or symbolic expression that "arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender" on the grounds that, even if the specific statute was limited to fighting words, it was unconstitutionally content-based and viewpoint-based because of the limitation to race-/religion-/sex-based fighting words. The Court, however, made it repeatedly clear that the City could have pursued "any number" of other avenues, and reaffirmed the notion that "fighting words" could be properly regulated by municipal or state governments.
In Snyder v. Phelps (2011), dissenting Justice Samuel Alito likened the protests of the Westboro Baptist Church members to fighting words and of a personal character, and thus not protected speech. The majority disagreed and stated that the protester's speech was not personal but public, and that local laws which can shield funeral attendees from protesters are adequate for protecting those in times of emotional distress.
It sounds pretty tough to restrict speech.
As it should be.
We may be limited to infitration and post action arrests, and .suits