The National Constitution Center's overview of the First Amendment
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This language restricts government’s ability to constrain the speech of citizens. The prohibition on abridgment of the freedom of speech is not absolute. Certain types of speech may be prohibited outright. Some types of speech may be more easily constrained than others. Furthermore, speech may be more easily regulated depending upon the location at which it takes place.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. To be clear, the First Amendment does not protect behavior that crosses the line into targeted harassment or threats, or that creates a pervasively hostile environment. But merely offensive or bigoted speech does not rise to that level, and determining when conduct crosses that line is a legal question that requires examination on a case-by-case basis.
Among other cherished values, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. The U.S. Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what exactly constitutes protected speech. The following are examples of speech, both direct (words) and symbolic (actions), that the Court has decided are either entitled to First Amendment protections, or not.
Freedom of Speech in Debate
Freedom of speech is the right to express opinions and ideas without interference, censorship, or punishment by the government. It is one of the fundamental rights and liberties granted to the people of the United States under the First Amendment to the Constitution, along with freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to assemble peaceably, and the right to petition the government to address grievances. Speech is a form of expression, a broader term that covers seeking, receiving, and imparting information and ideas through verbal and written communication, visual art, music, dance, information technology, symbols, actions, and other means.