Can You Give A New York Police Officer The Middle Finger?
One of the things that make America great
again is that we have a whole lot of freedoms that do not exist in other countries. The framers of the United States Constitution took extra effect to ensure that the people would have the power to ensure their continued liberty against the potential of a tyrannical government.
You can see that clearly when looking over the Bill of Rights and the things that are specifically spelled out in them.
The freedoms of the press, religion, and speech are cornerstones of American life and we see it in all sorts of things today, even if some of them don't seem to make sense.
What Is Freedom of Speech?
The concept and understanding of free speech have changed over the years, but according to the Judicial Branch of the U.S. Government, free speech is and includes:
- Not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag).
- To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages
- To engage in symbolic speech, (e.g., burning the flag in protest).
But free speech doesn't mean you can say just anything, like for example yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater.
Does That Mean We Can Swear At or Give Police The Middle Finger?
While it may be considered rude or even offensive, the US Court of Appeals was pretty clear that it is not only legal but considered protected speech if you decide to do so.
Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule, but that doesn't make them illegal or for that matter punishable.
-Jeffrey Stuart Sutton, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
So, if you really wanted to, you do have the constitutional right to flip the bird at Officer Mike Lowrey if you felt like it. We just don't know how good of an idea it is to do so.