Looming Supreme Court Case Could Impact Free Speech

Looming Supreme Court Case Could Impact All Religious Speech

(NewsReady.com) – The First Amendment is the bedrock of the Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech has very few limitations. However, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could have a widespread impact on speech.

The high court has previously ruled that the Constitution doesn’t protect a “true threat.” In the case of Virginia v. Black (2003), the justices defined a “true threat” as a statement made by someone who’s trying to “communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence” on a person or people.

On April 19, the SCOTUS justices will hear arguments in the case of Counterman v. Colorado. The question at hand is whether the government has to establish whether a subject knew a statement was threatening or if it’s enough to just prove that a “reasonable person” would believe it was threatening to establish a statement is unlawful.

The case centers around Billy Raymond Counterman’s conviction under Colorado’s anti-stalking law. He was charged and convicted after he used multiple Facebook accounts to send a musician messages that said things like “[expletive] off permanently” and “Die. Don’t Need You.” The state law outlaws any communication that a “reasonable person” would suffer emotional distress from or has caused them to suffer distress.

Experts are closely watching the case because it could have a widespread impact on speech in general. There’s a concern that the high court could make a ruling that would limit free speech on the internet, in person and even in religious settings. The precedent could change the way people behave on social media platforms. In other words, the justices could upend free speech as it is currently known and completely change the parameters of the First Amendment.

The ruling will come out in the late spring or early summer.

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