Categories of Laws and Proposed Laws
Most anarchy statutes were passed in the early 1900s in response to the
growing visibility of anarchists. Attempts to stifle anarchy led to
restrictions on First Amendment rights.
Laws that protect individuals from discrimination based on race, sex,
ethnicity, age, religion, or sexual orientation often have First Amendment
Most anti-mask laws do not target specific groups. Instead, they typically
ban mask wearing that intimidates. Opponents of such laws invoke First
Amendment freedom of association.
Blue sky laws refers to each state’s set of securities laws and
regulations. The Supreme Court said that states can regulate speech to
prevent securities fraud.
Breach-of-the-peace laws typically cover conduct that is disorderly and
disturbs the peace of a community. Most states have such laws criminalizing
certain speech and conduct.
Courts having ruled that college campus speech codes violate students’
First Amendment rights, but arguments that colleges have a legitimate
interest in such regulations continue.
There are concerns about conspiracy laws interfering with First Amendment
rights by allowing governments to crack down on those who disagree with the
positions of the state.
Curfew laws have been challenged on First Amendment grounds, leading some
lower courts to overturn the laws unless they have exceptions for First
Dress codes are typically set by schools and employers. Though dress codes
face First Amendment challenges by students and others, courts generally
support schools and employers.
Many Americans believe that the ability to speak English should be a
requirement of U.S. citizenship. English-only laws may violate the First
In the 1830s and 40s, Congress had a standing gag rule to table any
antislavery petition discussion. John Quincy Adams argued against this rule
and repealed it in 1844.
Green River ordinances are local ordinances that prohibit individuals from
engaging in door-to-door solicitations unless the residents have given
Harmful to minors laws seek to protect minors from pornography, obscenity
and other material that may bring harm to them. Obscenity is not protected
by the First Amendment.
Licensing laws that restrict First Amendment rights must not be based on
the content of the speech and can only regulate the time, place and manner
of the speech.
Loitering laws can have a chilling effect on First Amendment freedoms of
speech and assembly and have been ruled as unconstitutional even after
being rewritten in some cases.
The constitutionality of loyalty oaths is part of the struggle between the
government’s regulation of threats to national security and the First
Amendment rights of citizens.
Open meetings laws guarantee access by the public to meetings of governing
bodies. All states adopted such laws by 1976. Access to government meetings
is not required by the Constitution or First Amendment but are compatible
with the concept of an informed citizenry.
Panhandling is a form of solicitation. When municipalities regulate
panhandling — a form of speech — First Amendment rights of the poor and
dispossessed become an issue.
Presidential proclamations concerning holidays date back to colonial times,
when it was common for leaders to include requests for prayer and fasting.
The application of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law
(RICO) raises First Amendment questions implicating the freedom of
Cases involving the First Amendment and seditious libel, statements
intended to provoke dissatisfaction with the government, arose during
several eras in American history.
The creation of a hostile, intimidating work environment through sexual
comments can constitute a type of sexual harassment that may implicate
First Amendment freedom of speech.
Although the Supreme Court hasn’t recognized a First Amendment privilege
for journalists to refuse to reveal their sources to a grand jury, most
states have enacted shield laws.
Son of Sam laws prohibit criminals from profiting from media about their
crimes. The Supreme Court overturned New York’s Son of Sam law as violating
the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1961 that while Sunday blue laws may have
religious origins, they do not violate the First Amendment’s establishment
While land-use zoning generally does not raise First Amendment issues, a
government imposing controls to prevent certain businesses from operating
may violate free speech rights.