If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man sitting alone in his own home, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional...
If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man sitting alone in his own home, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Can censorship limit people's rights?
We could read this question in two different ways.
First, it could be read to mean “does censorship limit people’s rights?” If this is what you are asking, the answer is definitely “yes.” Censorship does limit a person’s rights, though the type of censorship determines how serious this limitation is. For example, if a person is prohibited from watching films that have child pornography in them, their rights are limited in a much less important way than they would be if the person were prohibited from watching documentaries that criticize the government. Censorship does limit people’s right to read and watch what they want, but some censorship limits this right in ways that are more offensive to a democratic society.
Second, we could read this to mean “is the government allowed to limit people’s rights by censoring what they read or watch?” Here, the answer is that the government may do so, but only in very limited circumstances. The government may prevent people from viewing child pornography. It may, at least indirectly, prevent people from reading news stories that divulge official state secrets. However, there are very few instances in which the government may legally do this.
It is certainly true that the right to read and view what we like is an important aspect of our First Amendment freedoms. Therefore, the government should not infringe on this right unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.