Future of First Amendment

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To the Editor;
I recently came across Matthew Gagnon’s Sept. 21 BDN (and Sept. 27 Piscataquis Observer) column “The future of freedom of speech.” I found it interesting that Gagnon blamed political correctness as the reason college campuses are drifting toward speech codes and regulations on speech.

I am a student at the University of Maine in Orono, and I must point out that rather than placing the blame solely on political correctness, some should be placed on the fact that a majority of college students do not fully comprehend what the First Amendment encompasses or their rights regarding free speech. Along with that, hate speech is a particularly tricky topic to address.

Although it is protected by the First Amendment, many questions arise when it is introduced in conversation. Two major questions include “what is hate speech?” and, as author Samuel Walker suggested, “how can it be tolerated if hurts other people?” Many young adults believe that if something offends another person, in regards to race, religion, sexual orientation and so on, it cannot be tolerated. But these same young adults may not be aware that as long as a statement is not targeting an individual, no matter how vile it is, it’s protected by the First Amendment.

I believe that the only way to safeguard the future of the First Amendment is to teach it more extensively. We cannot rely on the government to fix every problem we come across in society; we must work ourselves to preserve the rights that we have.

Keely Gonyea

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