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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 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.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour has issued a permanent injunction barring enforcement of a City of Medina law which required people to apply for a license from town officials and submit to a police background check in order to exercise their free speech rights.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
The ACLU-WA believes that policies related to the National Information Infrastructure (NII) should foster free speech, encourage the free marketplace of ideas, enrich user choice, and nurture electronic public forums. To ensure maintenance of these values, there should be at least one broadly available network that carries information without regard to content, provider, or medium.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
Last summer, Bremerton-Kitsap Access Television took off the air the “Saturn Series,” a conceptual art show that combined assorted footage with political captions criticizing the Bush administration. With the help of the ACLU, producer Gary Nicholson regained his broadcasting privileges
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
The ACLU-W believes in protection of rights of access to government information. Information is not owned by the government, but merely maintained by it; it should be available to all citizens. Access to information can empower citizens and lead to a more democratic, responsive, and generally better government. This policy does not address the question of what information is collected and maintained by governments; it is only concerned with access to existing information. Neither does it address what information should be exempt from disclosure.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
The Washington Court of Appeals overturned a law that regulates the content of political candidates’ statements, saying that it violates their right to free speech and does not ensure the honesty of elections.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
The City of Pasco and artists Janette Hopper and Sharon Rupp have reached a final settlement in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the artists. Under terms of the settlement, the City has issued an apology to the artists for “censoring their artwork” and further acknowledging it violated their First Amendment rights. The final settlement came recently, after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2001 that the City of Pasco violated the rights of Hopper and Rupp when it excluded their works from a program to display art at the Pasco City Hall in 1996.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
The ACLU-WA challenge of a Seattle police rescission of a parade permit will go to trial on May 1.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
The Pierce County Council voted unanimously on Aug. 9 to repeal a rule that barred speakers at public meetings from attacking or questioning the motives of council members. The action followed a letter by the ACLU objecting to the policy.

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