Last modified on June 15, 2011, at 18:32

Brandenburg v. Ohio

In Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), the U.S. Supreme Court substantially limited the ability of the government to censor "threatening" or "inflammatory" speech. Brandenburg, a Ku Klux Klan leader, was convicted of "advocating...violence or other unlawful methods of terrorism" after he gave a speech calling for "revengeance" [sic] on blacks, Jews, immigrants, and other groups. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction, holding that the statute was unconstitutional under the First Amendment because "the mere abstract teaching ... of the moral propriety or even moral necessity for a resort to force and violence, is not the same as preparing a group for violent action and steeling it to such action" (quoting Noto v. United States, 367 U.S. 290, 297-298 (1961)). The Court instead created a new test for when the state may punish a person for advocating illegal acts. The speaker must intend to incite violence, and the speech must be likely to incite immediate or imminent lawless action.