In response to the events in Palestine and Israel, many of us feel compelled to organize, speak out, and protest in support of the Palestinian people. Such advocacy creates controversy and generates backlash from pro-Israel advocates. The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects citizens from negative government interference for their free speech, even if that speech is unpopular. However, free speech rights are not absolute. The information below aims to generally educate Americans about the relevant law so they may protect themselves when speaking in support of Palestine.
The U.S. Constitution Protects Free Speech from Government Interference
- Fourteenth Amendment: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States”
- First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble”
|Protected Speech Includes:||Unprotected Speech Includes:|
|Advancement of political causes and beliefs||Incitement to imminent lawless action|
|Statements criticizing public policy and its implementation||Solicitations to commit crimes|
|Expressing opinions about a nation’s flag, “including those opinions which are defiant or contemptuous”||True threats – statements that intimidate a person into believing they will be seriously harmed by the speaker or someone acting at their behest|
|Unpopular, offensive and disagreeable ideas||Obscenity and child pornography|
|Incorrect ideas or statements||Defamation, perjury, and blackmail|
Government vs. Private Actors
- The Constitution protects free speech from punishment by the government, NOT private parties (i.e., private employers, business owners, and schools)
- The Constitution does not protect free speech from backlash or criticism
- A few states (CA, NY, DC, CO, ND), but NOT the federal government, prevent private discrimination based on political affiliation or lawful political activities outside of work
If you’d like to learn more about what we do, go to https://mlfa.org/
For specific concerns about potential litigation arising from your own speech, please submit a request for help on our website at https://mlfa.org/apply-for-help/.