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Identify the courts’ rules to regulate the following types of speech: obscenities, symbolic speech, and libel/slander. Write about the specific rules/tests/standards/definitions that the Supreme Court has issued to identify what’s permissible and what is not permissible to say in regards to obscenities, symbolic speech, and libel/slander.

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US Supreme Court rulings related to speech include Miller v. California on obscenity, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District on symbolic speech, and New York Times Company v. Sullivan on libel and slander.

The court’s 1973 decision in Miller v. California notably clarified the definition of obscenity as lacking “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” as well as having no “socially redeeming value.” The finding for Miller relied in part on the distinction between California, or any state, law and a national US standard.

The 1968 ruling in favor of Mary Beth and John Tinker in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District concerned symbolic speech because it focused on their wearing black arm bands as a protest. The case affirmed the rights to symbolically represent one’s beliefs as covered by the First Amendment. It also specifically pertained to student’s rights when they are on public school grounds.

Defamation by libel or slander is the subject of the 1964 ruling in the New York Times Company v. Sullivan case. The court established intent as a key factor, affirming that defamation required the demonstration of malice and that knowingly making statements that were false deliberately showed “reckless disregard for the truth.” The ruling went against Sullivan, the police commissioner of Montgomery, Alabama. He claimed the newspaper was responsible for a published advertisement’s characterization of police actions in civil rights protests.

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