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Governmental Interests And The Public Forum

A. Introduction

As previously stated, in regulating speech activity, there must be some element of governmental interest in the regulation not related to the suppression of free expression. U.S. v. O’Brien.

B. The Public Forum

The level of substantiality needed to justify the governmental interest in the regulation of speech activity depends on the level of public forum where the activity occurs. The principles applied in the regulation of speech are different when the speech is taking place in a true public forum (e.g., parks, streets), a semi-public forum (e.g., schools, libraries), and public facilities which are considered non-public forums. Perry Educational Association v. Perry Local Educators’ Association.

1. The Traditional Public Forum
The state may place reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions on speech that takes place in the traditional public forum, but these regulations must be implemented without regard to the content of the speech. The principles used in justifying speech restrictions are:

a. The government regulation is within the constitutional power of the government;
b. The regulation furthers an important or substantial governmental interest;
c. The governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression;
d. The incidental restriction on alleged First Amendment freedom is no greater than is essential to the furtherance of that interest. U.S. v. O’Brien.

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