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Free Speech

The right to express yourself regardless of the popularity your views is basic to a democratic society. Throughout its history, the ACLU has met challenges from officials who cite reasons old and new to restrict this right. We recognize that if one person can be silenced, all of us are at risk.

This guide covers the legal protections you have while protesting or otherwise exercising your free speech rights in public places. Although some of the legal principles are firmly established, as with many areas of law, free speech law is complex and continually developing. 

Topic Resources

News Release, Published: 
Monday, January 11, 2010
The ACLU of Washington urges President Stephen M. Jordan to reconsider the decision to cancel the scheduled April 5 campus appearance of guest speaker Ward Churchill due to concerns over security. Canceling the appearance makes Eastern Washington University complicit in a "heckler's veto," where any group of protesters that is big enough or violent enough can silence their outnumbered opponents.
News Release, Published: 
Monday, January 11, 2010
Background on the effect of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) on public computer access at libraries.
News Release, Published: 
Monday, January 11, 2010
As an organization dedicated to fostering free speech, the open exchange of ideas, and access to information, the American Civil Liberties Union urges you to consider closely the ways in which the merger of AT&T and Comcast could limit these liberties. There is a danger that if cable becomes the dominant provider of Internet connections, the Internet will come under the private control of companies that are unrestrained by competition or regulation.
News Release, Published: 
Monday, January 11, 2010
On Oct.23, 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle ruled that to retry Lt. Watada for court martial on three of the counts would violate his constitutional protect against being tried twice for the same crime; included was the count of attending a press conference. The judge also ruled that it would be up to a military court to determine whether Lt. Watada could be retried on two other counts involving alleged conduct unbecoming an officer.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, January 8, 2010
Anti-war activists are pursuing a lawsuit challenging police actions that violated their rights at demonstrations at the Port of Tacoma: unlawful arrests, unconstitutional restrictions, unreasonable force, and unauthorized surveillance, all designed to discourage and prevent peaceful protest.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, January 8, 2010
In response to an ACLU of Washington lawsuit, the Puyallup City Council amended its solicitation ordinance to protect the rights of a religious organization to spread its message. The ACLU had filed suit on behalf of United States Mission challenging city restrictions that prevented the organization from carrying out its mission of preaching the "Social Gospel."
News Release, Published: 
Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A recent federal court decision affects how Washington schools must operate their Associated Student Body organizations.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

Seeking to protect free speech rights on Seattle streets, the American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle challenging the City of Seattle’s Parade and Special Events Ordinances. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the October 22 Coalition, a protest group officially granted a parade permit by the City who was nonetheless barred by the Seattle Police Department from marching on the street. The ACLU says Seattle’s regulations are confusing, burdensome, and so vague that they wrongly give police unfettered discretion to alter or revoke parade permits.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

A former high school student who was suspended for creating a parody on the Internet is getting damages from the school district that wrongfully punished him.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

In a victory for prisoner rights, a federal appeals court has found that corrections officials cannot prevent inmates from receiving bulk mail sent at nonprofit postal rates.

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