What do a Confederate flag license plate, a statue of the Ten Commandments, and a student painting depicting cops as pigs all have in common? They’re all examples of government speech. In this episode we talk to First Amendment expert David L. Hudson Jr. about how freedom of speech applies when it’s the government doing the talking.
In this episode of The First Five, Lata Nott talks to David L. Hudson Jr., a scholar, law professor, and ombudsman for the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center. David explains what “government speech” is, and walks listeners through some significant examples and Supreme Court cases. He explains that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to something that’s considered to be government speech, because the government has an interest in crafting its own messages to the public. But he also describes instances where it’s difficult to determine whether something is an individual’s speech or the government’s speech, and expresses his own reservations about the “government speech doctrine” being taken too far.
Lata Nott is the Executive Director of the First Amendment Center at the Newseum Institute.
David L. Hudson Jr. is a First Amendment expert and law professor who also serves as the ombudsman for the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center. He is an author, co-author or co-editor of more than 40 books, including Documents Decoded: Freedom of Speech (2017) and First Amendment: Freedom of Speech (2012).
To learn more about “government speech”, see David’s article for the ABA Journal: Stifling Speech: Government invokes doctrine to silence expression it doesn’t like.