• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court first used the Fourteenth Amendment’s incorporation of the First Amendment to strike a state law limiting freedom of speech.

During the Red Scare (anticommunist hysteria) after World War I, California banned the display of a red flag but did not enforce the law until a right-wing group, Better American Federation, persuaded a local sheriff to raid a working-class children’s youth camp where they found instructor Yetta Stromberg’s red flag. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes,Hughes, Charles Evans;Stromberg v. California[Stromberg v. California] who wrote the landmark opinion for the 7-2 majority, stated that citizens might have had many uses for a red flag and that the California statute was simply too vague to pass constitutional muster. The California statute could, he argued, be used to suppress a wide range of constitutionally protected opposition to those in power. The Supreme Court’s ruling was the first to extend the Fourteenth Amendment to protect a First Amendment right (symbolic speech) from state action. Justices Pierce Butler and James C. McReynolds dissented.Symbolic speech;Stromberg v. California[Stromberg v. California]

Brandenburg v. Ohio

Clear and present danger test

First Amendment

Incorporation doctrine

O’Brien, United States v.

Schenck v. United States

Symbolic speech

Texas v. Johnson

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

Whitney v. California

Categories: History