Study Guide

Free Speech - Schenck v. United States

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Schenck v. United States

  • Charles Schenck was a socialist arrested for violating the Espionage Act by distributing pamphlets urging draftees to refuse to serve in World War I
  • Supreme Court in Schenck v. United States established new standard for judging which dangerous speech could be restricted
  • Words that create "a clear and present danger that they will being about… substantive evils" are not protected by First Amendment

The first major case heard by the Court under these new laws involved Charles Schenck, an official of the Socialist Party, and as such, responsible for the distribution of pamphlets encouraging draftees to refuse military service. His actions clearly violated the Espionage Act, which made it a felony to "cause, or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or . . . [to] willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States."

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