What is freedom of expression?

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Freedom of expression refers to the ability of an individual or group of individuals to express their beliefs, thoughts, ideas and emotions about different issues free from government censorship. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of individuals to freedom of religion, speech, press, petition and assembly. Some scholars group several of those freedoms under the general term “freedom of expression.”

Most state constitutions also contain provisions guaranteeing freedom of expression, and some provide even greater protection than the First Amendment.

Freedom of expression is essential to individual liberty and contributes to what the Supreme Court has called the marketplace of ideas. The First Amendment assumes that the speaker, not the government, should decide the value of speech.