Saturday, March 5, 2011

Courts make right calls on free speech

Chicago Sun-Times
March 4, 2011

This has been a good week for people who like to say hateful things.

And it has been an equally good one for the rest of us — Americans who want to challenge hate, and who also want to be free to say what we believe.

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that a Naperville high school could not stop a student from wearing a T-shirt with an anti-gay message. Then on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment also protected protesters who spewed venom during protests at military funerals.

In both instances, the protected speech was divisive and, in the funeral case, searing and highly offensive. But the courts were right in allowing it because the nation’s commitment to free speech, even hurtful speech, demands it.

“Debate on public issues should be robust, uninhibited and wide-open,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote.