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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: 
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.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

In the latest ACLU case backing student rights in cyberspace, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee today ruled that public school officials cannot punish a student for free speech outside of school.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Justice (CFJ) have reached an agreement with the Spokane Transit Authority to protect freedom of speech at the Plaza in downtown Spokane. The agreement settles a lawsuit challenging restrictions on free speech at Plaza sidewalks that the groups filed on behalf of Donald Ausderau, a Christian minister, and the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane in June 2003.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

The ACLU-WA is assisting Ian Spiers, a biracial community college student who was questioned and detained by local police and a Homeland Security agent for taking photographs at the Ballard Locks.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

The ACLU of Washington announced today the settlement of a lawsuit against the City of Tacoma over excessive fees required of groups organizing political marches. Under terms of the settlement, the City of Tacoma amended its ordinance regulating parades and other special events so that organizations are not required to pay unduly burdensome fees in order to exercise their free speech rights. The City Council adopted the revised ordinance on October 21.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

As the nation approaches the one-year anniversary of the USA PATRIOT Act, the American Civil Liberties Union today announced a new nationwide effort to recover the freedoms that Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Bush Administration have rolled back since last year's terrorist attacks. "Keep America Safe and Free: The Campaign to Defend the Constitution" is a national effort involving litigation, grassroots organizing, and community education in all 50 states.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

In a precedent-setting ruling on free speech in cyberspace, a federal court in Seattle today upheld the right to speak anonymously on the Internet.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

A federal court in Seattle has held that people have the same right to protest in cyberspace as they do on sidewalks. U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer ruled that people cannot be barred from putting offensive material on the Internet unless a court has found it defamatory after trial.

News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

ACLU-WA 1999-2000 Annual Report

Cyberspace is the latest frontier for battles over censorship. Around the state, right-wing groups are demanding that public libraries install filters to "protect" people from sexually explicit materials on the Internet.

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