flag burning ammendment

Dennis Putnam dap1 at MINDSPRING.COM
Sat Jul 3 07:49:06 MDT 1999


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At 11:18 AM 7/2/99 -0400, you wrote:
>
>
>We know we have freedom of speech but we can't yell fire in a crowded
theatre or
>incite a riot.
>  SNIP

The common argument of not being able to yell, "fire," in a crowded
theater, with respect to the first amendment, is a myth. That is not a
first amendment issue. It is closer to inciting a riot (although as we
now know murder is legal as long as it occurs during a riot). The
issue is one of consequenses. Creating panic endangers all those
present and there is nothing in any amendment that prohibits
prosecution for endangerment. You certainly can yell, "fire," in a
crowded if done in a way that will not endanger those present. For
example if an actor has such a line during a live performance that is
integral to the plot he cannot be prosecuted based on the first
amendment.

Now to link this to the flag issue. Many have modified the 1st
amendment to provide freedom of "expression" rather then "speech." I
cannot really find anything in the federalist papers that clarifies
this. I strong suspect the founders meant "speech" and political
speech in particular. Any thoughts on this? I don't feel comfortable
prohibiting "expression" because of the obvious start down the
slippery slope but then again ....
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Dennis Putnam                   Public Key can be obtained from:
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