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U.S. Legislation: First Amendment to the Constitution

The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America provides that congress does not make laws that violate freedom of speech, forbids the free exercise of religion or identify with a religion, and limits freedom of the press. This amendment outlines the protections one has as a citizen of the country in exercising religion, right to speech, and protections in excise of journalism.

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Harry Heckler, like any other citizen, is protected by the first amendment against free speech. Under the first amendment, Harry is protected in expressing his opinion through pure speech in demonstrations or rallies or such a race, slogans or statements in T-shirts, leaflets, ‘fashion statements’ written or in symbols and theatrical performances. This freedom of expression allowed for the members of the public to know the truth and therefore make informed decisions and allowed Harry to self-fulfillment gain in doing what he was convinced was right and promoted tolerance in the community of other people’s thinking and opinions.

The amendment’s protections may however be curtailed if they endanger national security. Freedom of speech may be limited in time, place, and manner restrictions by the government as long as they are logical. There are also restrictions to the protection of the first amendment based on whether the forms of expression are obscene. Here the miller test is applied. This states that material or speech is obscene if it is of prurient interests as thought by the average person using existing community standards, it depicts sexually clear conduct defined by the law and which is offensive and it falls short of artistic, scientific, literacy, or political value.

In Harry’s case, his protection against the first amendment could be curtailed in light of how he chanted slogans. He was moving from one side to the other trying to work for the crowd up. This could be interpreted as incitement. This justifies officer Stall’s warning to him to leave the place.

Harry’s words in the statements on the slogans and the shirt, if passed through the miller test, could be interpreted as obscene. They lacked anything artistic, scientific, political, or literary value. By the standards of the community, they were prurient especially because the race was attended by children they were in no interest to the welfare of the children this may be protected under the speech harmful to children category as the first amendment wishes to protect the minors against physical and psychological well-being. The crowd was offended by Harry’s chanting as he tried to work the crowd and his slogans as they cheered when he was led away by officer stall. Some of the people were agitated by his actions though most ignored him.

Harry could only have been protected in the first amendment if he was in the privacy of his own home. However, the obscene statements in his shirt and sign were displayed in public. This was an offense and was the reason officer Stall arrested him.

Officer Stall’s actions in arresting Harry for ‘jaywalking’ and then releasing him after the race was not in line with the constitutional requirements. He was required by the law to charge Harry Heckler with a criminal offense of use of indecent speech and possession of indecent materials in public. He was also to be charged with compromising the physical and psychological well-being of minors.

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