AP US Government : Freedom of Speech, Assembly, and Expression

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP US Government

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Freedom Of Speech, Assembly, And Expression

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) Supreme Court case resulted in what controversial interpretation of the first amendment? 

Possible Answers:

Election contributions are not speech and are not protected by the first amendment.

Political spending by members of Congress can not be limited in any way.

Corporation personhood does not extend to religious observances.

Corporations qualify as "persons" for the purposes of protected free speech.

Corporations may organize political contributions of their employees but may not contribute themselves.

Correct answer:

Corporations qualify as "persons" for the purposes of protected free speech.

Explanation:

The Citizens United case famously established that the First Amendment protects person's political contributions as free speech and that corporations qualify for this sort of protection. A student who knows that the case involved corporations and free speech should be able to quickly narrow down the answers.

Example Question #2 : Freedom Of Speech, Assembly, And Expression

Which court case ruled that students can refuse to salute the flag, as per the First Amendment?

Possible Answers:

Griswold v. Connecticut

W.V. State Board of Education v. Barnette

Bethel School District v. Fraser

Romano v. Harrington

Lau v. Nichols

Correct answer:

W.V. State Board of Education v. Barnette

Explanation:

Traditionally, the Pledge of Allegiance was considered by many to be mandatory. The freedom of speech act allows citizens to choose whether or not to say the Pledge in public schools.

Example Question #3 : Freedom Of Speech, Assembly, And Expression

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District established the precedent that courts use to determine whether or not public schools are violating the First Amendment?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers are correct

The Equal Time Rule

The Lewdness and Speech Doctrine

The Public Speech Doctrine

The Tinker Test

Correct answer:

The Tinker Test

Explanation:

The Tinker Test is used when a state facility uses major disciplinary actions against a disruptive student. The First Amendment protects students from uninformed or unfair dismissals, and the precedent established in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District allows courts to easily arbitrate these situations.

Example Question #4 : Freedom Of Speech, Assembly, And Expression

According to the Supreme Court, which of the following actions does NOT quality as symbolic speech?

Possible Answers:

Excluding various groups of participants from a public parade

Deliberately burning the American flag

Intentionally destroying a military draft card

The public display of a burning cross

Correct answer:

Intentionally destroying a military draft card

Explanation:

Perhaps the murkiest of all free speech issues can be found when considering the topic of symbolic speech. The Supreme Court defines symbolic speech as any action (typically carried out nonverbally) that is intended to express a personal opinion. In a sense, because such actions are normally carried out publically and are designed to make a dramatic or otherwise influential impact upon the viewer, the Court has ruled that the protections of the First Amendment are therefore applicable to these scenarios. However, the Court has yet to fully clarify precisely which actions are classified as symbolic speech and, conversely, which activities are not protected; instead, the Court has dealt with issues on an individual basis by deciding on the protected status of specific actions on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps the most famous case of symbolic speech involves the deliberate burning of the American flag, which citizens have done as a form of protest. Although many Americans, some justices included, dislike this action, the Court has ruled that burning the American flag does, in fact, quality as symbolic speech and is therefore allowed. Other protected acts of symbolic speech include the public display of a burning cross (unless explicit and directly connected threats are made) and the willful exclusion of a group from a public parade. A person may not, however, burn their military draft card as a form of protest, as the Court holds that a draft card, because it is issued by the federal government, is therefore federal property and cannot be destroyed without consent. Clearly, further clarification of symbolic speech is necessary and most likely forthcoming.

Example Question #5 : Freedom Of Speech, Assembly, And Expression

According to the Supreme Court, which form of speech is NOT protected by the First Amendment?

Possible Answers:

Speech promoting anarchy or Communism

Libellous speech

Speech regarding violent rebellion against any level of government

Slanderous speech

Correct answer:

Libellous speech

Explanation:

According to the precedents and rulings set by the Supreme Court, the First Amendment protects many forms of free speech, including the promotion of anarchy or Communism, public criticism of the government’s policies during wartime, and even speech regarding the violent overthrow of the government – provided that such language does not explicitly lead to violent activity. However, the Court has found that the First Amendment does not, in fact, protect libelous speech. Although libel is often confused with slander, the two terms are legally different – libel is defined as a written negative statement about an individual, while slander (which is protected by the First Amendment) pertains to spoken speech only. Yet the Court has also set very high standards for any individual seeking to sue for libel, especially if the individual in question is a public figure (such as a politician or celebrity). According to the Court, the plaintiff (the person bringing the libel charge) must prove not only that the written statements in question are false but also that the accused author intentionally penned the comments with harmful intent. In other words, in order to win a libel case, the plaintiff must be able to be prove that the accused author willfully lied in an attempt to injure the plaintiff’s reputation and/or life. Such a standard is clearly quite difficult to meet – after all, how precisely does someone find absolute proof of another person’s inner motivations? Libel cases are thus hardly ever decided in favor of the plaintiff, although private individuals (aka average citizens) do have a very slightly higher success rate.

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