The First Amendment
- Symbolic speech is protected in the First Amendment under an American's right to free speech. Because not all forms of communication are verbal, a person's right to communicate through actions is a valid and recognized right by law. It is important to remember that although the Supreme Court recognizes that symbolic speech is covered under the First Amendment, any and all forms can be subject to protection and all may not fall under the scope of the law.
Speaking With Actions
- Symbolic speech is a way of communicating with others through certain actions. Protests, wearing pins and armbands and participating in sit-ins are all considered symbolic speech. For the most part, a majority of symbolic speech occurs because of political beliefs and activities. By wearing a shirt or a button to support an issue, you are demonstrating your right to symbolic speech.
Crossing the Line
- Sometimes symbolic speech is questioned because it crosses the fine line drawn in the sand. While supported by the Constitution, there are times when it is unlawful. The act of burning the American flag, which some may consider a simple action, is illegal and not a valid form of symbolic speech. This was decided in 1989 under the federal Flag Protection Act which made burning the flag illegal after two highly publicized Supreme Court cases involving flag burning spurred public opinion.
Everyday Symbolic Speech
- Not all symbolic speech has to do with politics and the law. In fact, wearing bracelets to support cancer foundations or t-shirts to raise awareness for certain diseases is considered symbolic speech. Any time you are communicating with another human without words, you are exercising your right to symbolic speech.