The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the First Amendment right to freedom of speech – oral or written. An internet dictionary definition for freedom of speech said that it is “the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.” This says that every American has the right to express his/her opinion without being censored or restrained by any individual, organization, or government.
This freedom was protected by a federal appeals court on Friday when it struck down city ordinances that prohibited licensed therapists who offered “conversion therapy” that could change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor. The court ruled that the ban on conversion therapy violated the First Amendment rights of the therapists.
Boca Raton and Palm Beach County prohibit therapists from engaging in counseling or any therapy with a goal of changing a minor’s sexual orientation, USCA11 Case: 19-10604 Date Filed: 11/20/2020 Page: 1 of 47 2 reducing a minor’s sexual or romantic attractions (at least to others of the same gender or sex), or changing a minor’s gender identity or expression—though support and assistance to a person undergoing gender transition is specifically permitted. These restrictions apply even to purely speech-based therapy. Two therapists argue that the ordinances infringe on their constitutional right to speak freely with clients. They appeal the district court’s denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction. We understand and appreciate that the therapy is highly controversial. But the First Amendment has no carveout for controversial speech. We hold that the challenged ordinances violate the First Amendment because they are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny….
The First Amendment prohibits the political restriction of speech in simple but definite terms: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” U.S. Const. amend. I. Those same terms, and their guarantee of free speech, now apply to states and municipalities as well as to the federal government. See Cruz v. Ferre, 755 F.2d 1415, 1418 (11th Cir. 1985). At the heart of that guarantee is “the principle that each person should decide for himself or herself the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration, and adherence.” Turner Broad. Sys., Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622, 641 (1994). (Emphasis added.)
The court did not rule on whether “conversion therapy” is a good thing. It simply ruled that therapists had the right to speak freely about sexual orientation and gender identity. The case may be appealed and taken to the Supreme Court, but freedom of speech has been defended.
This ruling declares that no government has the right to place political restrictions on speech. Every American has the right to express their opinion without censure. Freedom of speech applies to social media as well as any other domain. Everyone is free to express their opinion as they choose, and no one has the right to censure them.
This means that no one has the right to tell anyone that a post is divisive, hurtful, or anything similar or to say anything meant to stop unwanted speech. If a person does not like what is written or being said, that person should stop reading or walk away. They should never attempt to censure the speech of another person.