Timelines
Freedom of Speech and Association

  • 1735
    Truth Is A Defense Against Libel Charge

  • 1787
    Federalist Papers' Publication Starts

  • 1791
    First Amendment Is Ratified

  • 1798
    Alien And Sedition Acts Signed Into Law

  • 1836
    Efforts To Stifle Debate About Slavery Unsuccessful

  • 1859
    'On Liberty' Is Published

  • 1864
    Lincoln Orders Two Newspapers Shut

  • 1873
    Circulation Of Birth Control Information Outlawed

  • 1917
    Congress Passes Espionage Act Of 1917

  • 1918
    Sedition Act Of 1918 Punishes Critics Of WWI

  • 1919
    'Clear And Present Danger' Exception Established
    'Marketplace Of Ideas' Concept Defined

  • 1925
    Court: First Amendment Applies To States' Laws

  • 1926
    Mencken Arrested For 'Indecent Literature'

  • 1927
    Criminal Syndicalism Law Constitutional

  • 1931
    Prior Restraint Ruled Unconstitutional
    Court: Symbolic Expression Of Ideas Also Protected

  • 1937
    Court: First Amendment Protects 'Peaceable Assembly'

  • 1940
    Ban On Religious Solicitation Struck Down
    Flag Salute Requirement Is Upheld

  • 1942
    'Fighting Words' Exception Established

  • 1943
    Court: Required Flag Salute Violates First Amendment

  • 1949
    Scope Of 'Fighting Words' Doctrine Limited

  • 1951
    Smith Act Is Found Constitutional

  • 1952
    Justices Uphold Group Libel Law

  • 1957
    Obscenity Exception To First Amendment Established

  • 1958
    Court Protects 'Free Association' In NAACP Case

  • 1959
    No Protection From Congressional Inquiry

  • 1961
    Symbolic Speech Of Civil Rights Protesters Protected

  • 1964
    Court Establishes 'Actual Malice' Standard

  • 1966
    Loyalty Oath Is Struck Down

  • 1968
    Limits Placed On Symbolic Speech Right
    Teacher's Free Speech Right Upheld

  • 1969
    Advocacy Of Violence Is Protected Speech Except In Rare Circumstances
    Private Ownership Of Obscene Material Protected
    Students' Right To Symbolic Speech Upheld

  • 1971
    Antiwar Expression Is Ruled Protected Speech
    Newspapers Win Pentagon Papers Case

  • 1972
    Court: No Reporter's Privilege Before Grand Juries

  • 1973
    Definition Of Obscenity Is Clarified
    Court: States Can Regulate Obscene Exhibits

  • 1976
    Court Ties Campaign Expenditures To Political Speech
    Justices Protect Commercial Speech

  • 1977
    Court Allows Publication Of Juvenile's Identity

  • 1978
    Nazis Permitted To March In Skokie, Ill.
    FCC Can Regulate Indecent Speech

  • 1980
    Court Establishes Commercial Speech Test

  • 1982
    School Board Cannot Ban Library Books
    Justices Rule Child Porn Not Protected

  • 1983
    Public Employees' Free Speech Right Defined

  • 1985
    Anti-Pornography Law Is Struck Down

  • 1986
    Court: Student's Lewd Speech Not Protected

  • 1988
    Court Allows Censorship Of School Publications

  • 1989
    Court: Flag Burning Is Protected Symbolic Speech

  • 1990
    Flag Protection Act Ruled Unconstitutional

  • 1991
    Media Coverage Limited In Gulf War
    Son Of Sam Law Is Struck Down

  • 1992
    Court Strikes Down Hate Crime Law

  • 1993
    Justices Allow Tougher Hate Crime Penalties

  • 1994
    Justices Uphold Buffer Zones At Abortion Clinics

  • 1995
    Denial Of Funds To Christian Paper Ruled Unconstitutional

  • 1996
    Communications Decency Act Passed
    Child Pornography Prevention Act Passed

  • 1997
    Court Ruling Backs Free Speech On Internet
    'Floating' Buffer Zones At Clinics Struck Down

  • 1998
    Decency Test On Arts Grants Is Upheld
    Court: Public TV Can Exclude Candidates

  • 1999
    Giuliani Targets Publicly Funded Art

  • 2000
    Children’s Internet Protection Act Passed
    Boy Scouts Can Bar Gays As Leaders
    Court Revisits 'Floating' Buffer Zones At Clinics

  • 2002
    Ban On 'Virtual' Child Porn Struck Down
    Homeland Security Act Signed

  • 2003
    Law On Library Internet Filters Upheld
    Court Rules On Cross-Burning Law
    Justices Uphold Campaign Finance Law
    Law To Protect Children Passed

  • 2004
    Patriot Act Provision Ruled Unconstitutional
    Child Online Protection Act Struck Down

  • 2006
    Equal Access For Military Recruiters Is Upheld
    Court Rejects Vermont Campaign Finance Law

  • 2007
    Justices Restrict Students' Free Speech Right
    Court Strikes Down Ad Limits In Campaign Law

  • 2009
    City's Refusal Of Religious Monument Upheld

  • 2010
    Court Lifts Limits On Corporate Election Spending

  • 2015
    Town Ordinance On Signs Struck Down
    Intent Cited In Online Threats Case
    Court Says Texas May Reject License Plate Design
    States May Limit Judicial Candidates' Fund-Raising Requests