100th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Free Speech Jurisprudence

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s free speech jurisprudence. On March 4, 1919, the Court issued a decision in Schenck v. United States, and in the intervening years, it has repeated and clarified its defense of free expression. Many of those decisions remain highly relevant to today’s controversies—from the 1943 decision in West Virginia v. Barnette affirming an individual’s choice to participate or not in the Pledge of Allegiance to the 1967 Keyishian v. Board of Regents championing free speech, association, and academic independence in higher education.

“Our country’s challenges change, but the importance of free expression in addressing them remains constant,” said Charles Koch Institute’s Casey Mattox. “Throughout our history, civil liberties have made it possible for individuals to stand against injustice, especially when their positions represented views unpopular at the times. First Amendment protections continue to enable social change—empowering movements working toward freedom for all people.”

The conversations the United States has had for the past century around free expression are just as relevant today. Technological innovation means continued opportunity to understand and defend free expression in the wake of new platforms and new tools. We support scholars, including those at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University studying free speech and press freedom in the digital age, faculty at the Stanford Law School’s Religious Liberty Clinic giving law students first-chair to learn the finer points of constitutional law, and other partners addressing critical questions.

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