Pastor Terry Jones, Free Speech, and Employee Rights

Employees’ rights to free speech seems to become a hot topic right around election time.  During a very rare interview with Larry King last night, Supreme Court Justice Breyer discussed the importance of free speech. Larry, being the inquisitive interviewer that he is, asked Justice Breyer about Reverend Terry Jones’s highly controversial decision to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11.

The Justice compared Jones’s plans to the burning of the American flag, a practice that the Justice was repulsed by during the Vietnam War era. Jones was eventually dissuaded from following through on his plan, thanks in part to calls from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. However, the Justice noted that Jones was well within his First Amendment rights to carry through with his controversial plan, reminding us all that freedom of speech applies equally to popular and unpopular speech.

While private employers are not subject to the restrictions of the First Amendment, this is certainly an issue for public employers to take to heart. Jones’s actions and the upcoming elections may well spark political speech within the office. Such speech is generally protected, unless it falls within one of a very few prohibited categories, including profanity and fighting words.

One thought on “Pastor Terry Jones, Free Speech, and Employee Rights

  1. the distinction between the rights of public employees and the rights (or lack thereof) of private employees sure undercuts that whole rightist trope about government being something to fear and corporations being something to embrace. From a practical standpoint government is whoever has the power to tell you what to do. And for most people, nobody has as much power over small day-to-day decisions as the boss. And if your boss is a private entity, they may have the power to impose poverty upon you for political expression. so who ought we be fearing?


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