Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942) established that fighting words are not
protected by the First Amendment. The Court has since narrowed the fighting
Profane or Indecent Speech
In FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1978), the Supreme Court reaffirmed that
there is less First Amendment protection for broadcast media than other
forms of media.
Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri (1973) reaffirmed
that universities cannot punish students for indecent speech that does not
In what is known as the “Cussing Canoeist” case, a Michigan profanity law
making it illegal to curse in front of women and children was overturned by
a state appellate court as incompatible with the First Amendment’s
protection of free speech. Timothy Boomer, who had fallen into the river
while canoeing and unleashed a stream of curse words, had been convicted
under the statute.
Reno v. ACLU (1997) said provisions of the Communications Decency Act that
regulated Internet speech were too restrictive and violated the First
In Rosenfeld v. New Jersey (1972), which involved profanity and the First
Amendment, the Court vacated the conviction of a man who used profane
language at a school board meeting.
Sable Communications of California v. Federal Communications Commission
(1989) established the principle that indecent speech for adults is
protected by the First Amendment.