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 the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – First Amendment, U.S. Constitution
To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement. Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Green Mumford (18 June 1799)
The Constitution is a delusion and a snare if the weakest and humblest man in the land cannot be defended in his right to speak and his right to think as much as the strongest in the land. Clarence Darrow Address to the court in People v. Lloyd (1920)
The liberty of the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. … the press in its historic connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion. Charles Evans Hughes, Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 (1938)
Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, 1992
The relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them. George Orwell, “Freedom of the Park”, Tribune (7 December 1945)
Laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression; in order that every man may present his views without penalty, there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population. Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein (1954), p. 32.
Under our Constitution, free speech is not a right that is given only to be so circumscribed that it exists in principle but not in fact. Freedom of expression would not truly exist if the right could be exercised only in an area that a benevolent government has provided as a safe haven for crackpots. The Constitution says that Congress (and the States) may not abridge the right to free speech. This provision means what it says. We properly read it to permit reasonable regulation of speech-connected activities in carefully restricted circumstances. But we do not confine the permissible exercise of First Amendment rights to a telephone booth or the four corners of a pamphlet, or to supervised and ordained discussion in a school classroom. Abe Fortas, (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 1969).
When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. Anthony Kennedy, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) (Opinion of the Court).