Is Freedom of Speech Absolute?


Sean Cowley, Staff Writer

Looking at today’s world, it is clear that giving people complete freedom of speech can be disastrous. A very common example is yelling “fire!” in a dense crowd. It’s clear why that would be a bad idea. So what kind of speech should be limited or permitted?


False statements

Now, in a society where everyone can express their own views and opinions, there is going to be many false statements spread around. However, false information can do more harm than just misleading. Scams purposely mislead people in an attempt to take their money with minimal effort. It is still difficult to determine whether misleading information should be prohibited.


Hate speech

Hate speech is everywhere. It seems almost like people spend much of their effort on ruining people’s days with hate speech. And the internet can expand the voice of anyone using it, no matter what they are saying. Perhaps, someone could draw the line to keep hate speech out of society if the idea of what hate speech is wasn’t such a controversial idea. People who use hateful speech themselves would argue that all speech should be allowed. People who want to exert power over others would argue that all negative speech, or even religious expression, should not be allowed because it isn’t “neutral”.


Where is the line?

For students at American Heritage School and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the answer is fairly easy to answer. Prophets both ancient and modern have given us guidelines on what speech can bring us closer to God. The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet has a whole section on language that states: “Speak kindly and positively about others. Choose not to insult others or put them down, even in joking. Avoid gossip of any kind, and avoid speaking in anger. When you are tempted to say harsh or hurtful things, leave them unsaid.” Opinions and disagreements are just fine, just see our new Constitution and Civility Center.


In short, while freedom of speech is not absolute, just like any other freedoms, it is still there and we should use it for kindness as Latter Day Saints.