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July 3, 2015

Trump and the First Amendment

Once again, here's a quick lesson on the First Amendment, since, it seems, most Americans do not fully understand it.

The First Amendment is designed to protect an individual from retaliation from the government when enacting his/her right to free speech. Even that is limited, to some degree, in that you cannot state things that are a form of defamation, that could incite riot or panic, or that are direct threats (among other things).

Basically, you can say what you want as long as what you say is not libel (written) or slander (oral), does not cause people to potentially harm themselves or others, or that is a direct threat toward someone, and the government will not arrest or detain you.

However, one of the huge and important caveats to this freedom is the right for other, non-governmental agencies (including businesses) to provide you with repercussions for what you say. As mentioned above, even the government can issue repercussions depending on what you say. And this is the part that most Americans seem to forget-- that there are repercussions for saying anything you want to. It is where your freedom of speech ends and another's begins.

Donald Trump recently said, in his announcement speech for running for President in 2016, that Latinos were all bad people. He specifically called them rapists. He said they were bringing crime and drugs to America.

Now, it is true that he has the right to say it. However, NBC, Univision, and the people also have the right to be offended by what he said and to react accordingly. I keep seeing people saying that NBC and Univision don't have the right to pull out of their contracts with Trump just because he said something they disagree with. Wrong. Not only do they have the right, it is an exercise of the exact same right he used to offend them! He is feeling the repercussions for saying something that people disagree with. Those people have then acted completely within the law in pulling away, disassociating from him, and issuing statements that show that Trump's opinions do not express their own opinions. Trump can sue all he wants, but it just shows that he simply does not understand the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights.

In the future, try to remember that there are real, tangible repercussions for anyone's use of the freedom of speech. These can be as innocuous as being fired from your job for saying something unseemly or as big as being put in jail and fined for defamation of character, threats to harm another person, or inciting a riot. I cannot state it often enough, but here it is again: Your right to free speech ends where another person's right to free speech begins. There are repercussions for what you say!

Trump talks big. He thinks big. But he simply does not understand the laws of America nor does he understand the Bill of Rights or Constitution. But, then again, that seems to make him a fairly typical American.