Song Lyrics and the First Amendment

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SONG LYRICS AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT We believe that the first amendment protects all song lyrics unless the lyrics incite a “clear and present danger.” The first amendment of the constitution is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances.” Although we have these rights guaranteed to us by the first amendment, our speech is restricted if it incites a clear and present danger. So what do we do about songs that can be misconstrued about their message and purpose? Should their lyrics be protected by the first amendment? In our opinion, the first amendment should protect all song lyrics unless they incite a “clear and present danger” The clear and present danger clause was produced during World War 1 in the case of United States v. Schenck, where Charles Schenck sent 15,000 anti-draft letters through the mail. The government accused Schenck of illegally interfering with military equipment, violating the Espionage Act which prohibits all false statements that interfere with the military power. The court ruled against Schenck and created the clear and present danger test: “whether the words are used in such circumstances as to create a clear and present danger” as Justice Wendell Holmes stated. Overall, the Schenck case rules that freedom of speech could be limited by the government. The true threat doctrine also contributes to if song lyrics should be protected by the first amendment. The Supreme Court ruled in Watts v. United States that “a threat must be distinguished from what is constitutionally protected speech.” Robert Watts made a statement during a rally in the Washington Monument grounds in August 1966: “If they ever make me
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