Freedom of Speech


“The fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it. Indeed, if it is the speaker’s opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it constitutional protection. For it is a central tenet of the First Amendment that the government must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas.”

“Admittedly, these oft-repeated First Amendment principles, like other principles, are subject to limitations. In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U. S. 568 (1942), we held that a state could lawfully punish an individual for the use of insulting ” fighting’ words — those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

But the sort of expression involved in this case does not seem to us to be governed by the exception to the general First Amendment principles stated above.

The Court of Appeals interpreted the jury’s finding to be that the ad parody “was not reasonably believable,” and in accordance with our custom we accept this finding. Respondent is thus relegated to his claim for damages awarded by the jury for the intentional infliction of emotional distress by “outrageous” conduct. But for reasons heretofore stated this claim cannot, consistently with the First Amendment, form a basis for the award of damages when the conduct in question is the publication of a caricature such as the ad parody involved here. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is accordingly Reversed.

Supreme Court Justice C.J. Rehnquist

485 U.S. 46

Supreme Court of the United States

February 24, 1988 Decide

Hustler Magazine and Larry C Flynt, Petitioners V. Larry Falwell

NO 86-1276

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