Cohen v. California cited as pillar in free speech law

Writing for the First Amendment Center, David L. Hudson Jr. says the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Cohen v. California strengthened free speech by limiting the fighting words doctrine, clarifying the difference between obscenity and profanity, making the case that offensive speech should be protected and warning that governments could ban language representing unpopular views.

The case centered on Paul Robert Cohen who in 1968 wore a jacket in the Los Angeles County Courthouse bearing the words “Fuck the Draft” and even though he removed the jacket in a courtroom, he was arrested on a offensive conduct charge. The Supreme Court sided with Cohen, Justice John Marshall Harlan writing for the majority, “The constitutional right of free expression is powerful medicine in a society as diverse and populous as ours. That the air may at times seemed filled with verbal cacophony is, in this sense, not a sign of weakness but of strength.” -db

From a commentary for the First Amendment Center, June 7, 2011, by David L. Hudson Jr.

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