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‘R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul’ Research Paper


‘R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul’ is a 1992 case involving the United States Supreme Court which had to make a ruling depending on the U.S First Amendment, Free speech clause. The case involved Robert A. Viktora (R.A.V) who was 17years of age, Athur Miller aged 18 years old and other teenagers who made a cross and later burnt in the frontage of a black family located across their residence on 21st July, 1990.

They were charged with violating St. Paul Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance which pointed out that “anyone placing a symbol or object such as swastika or burning a cross on public or private property with a reason to knows it would cause anger, alarm or resentment on grounds of race, religion, color, creed or gender, is guilty of disorderly conduct” (Lively & Russell 88).

Although petitioner’s counsel nullified the St. Paul Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance pointing out that according to the First Amendment, it limited the freedom of speech. RAV’s counsel achieved in dismissing the claim stating that the Ordinance was overboard and violated the first constitutional amendment by limiting speech.

The case aroused several issues pointing that the diverse Minnesota statutes could prosecute the case. The Minnesota Supreme Court upturned the trial and insisted that the ordinance was appropriate since it achieved a persuasive governmental concern in caring for the St. Paul society from intimidation that limited their security.

Not many cases that have achieved similar dispute. For instance, Justice Antonin Scalia’s judgment disregarded St. Paul ordinance but was faced with contradicting views. Scalia’s views insisted that the Ordinance limited the freedom of speech and it only included the expressions regarding race, sex and religion and therefore, hostility could be expressed in other ways such as political association that have not been included in the ordinance (Lively & Russell 89).

His decision was accepted by other judges although not based on his argument which they termed as invalid. However, they unanimously agreed that St Paul ordinance was overboard and therefore unconstitutional. This caused qualms on legality of speech codes, local and state laws that public academic institutions upheld.

Free Speech

Free speech is an expression that is not censored or one which is not regulated. Hate speech is an example of freedom of expression and may encompass negative expressions towards other people’s sexuality, race, gender, religion and socio-economic backgrounds. In the United States, the First Constitutional Amendment legally safeguards the freedom of speech.

Scrutiny in cases regarding free speech is often a controversial debate depending on the extensiveness of the hate speech. The jurisprudence does not offer clear guidelines on whether the First Amendment is only applicable in public entities or also in private ones.

Academic institutions for instance are increasingly plagued with the issue of hate speech and whether free speech should be regulated through speech codes. Speech codes aims to combat prejudice and nuisance in colleges and universities to achieve equality of all students who comes from different ethnic, religious and social backgrounds.

Hate speech groups claim that the constitution allows freedom of speech and therefore it should not be restricted or censored and doing so would be unconstitutional. Hate speech can be prosecuted if it is aimed at reproaching individuals on the grounds of race or sexual preference. It is legally outlawed if it involves expressions that are aimed to provoke aggression, or cause prejudice to a certain entity be it religious, political, ethnic, sex or national one (Golding 2 & 3).

Works Cited

Golding, Martin. Free Speech on Campus. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2000. Print

Lively, Donald and Russell, Weaver. Contemporary Supreme Court Cases. Connecticut: Greenwood Press: 2006. Print.

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