Justice William J. BrennanJustice William J. Brennan, (1906-1997) U. S. Supreme Court Justice

Famous Justice William J. Brennan Quote

“If there is a bedrock principle of the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

Justice William J. BrennanJustice William J. Brennan
~ Justice William J. Brennan

Texas vs. Johnson, 1989

Ratings and Comments

Mike, Norwalk

ahhhh, that it were so

E Archer, NYC

The quintessential difference between the US Constitution and nearly any other constitution (including Canada, Australia, and new Iraq) is that the US Constitution is a declaration of the People which sets rules for the government -- the others are declarations of the government (or the crown) declaring what the rights of the people are -- HUGE difference. The 1st amendment does not confer ANY rights -- it simply declares that the government may not make laws that restrict specific rights -- these rights are not declared specifically but merely acknowledged as some of our rights but not all. The US founders were brilliant men who understood exactly what they were doing and the context in which these declarations are made.

Michael, Houston, TX

Ditto E Archer...well put. My I also add, that there is a continual juggling match here from the beginning about how to balance these individual rights with the rights of others. We have the right to peaceably assemble, but must have a permit to parade / block streets; we have freedom of speech but cannot yell "Fire" in a theater; or libel and slander someone. I believe where we really get into trouble is when we completely ignore the words of the constitution and its context to invent "rights" that are not there, simply because its supporters could never muster support for an actual law much less a constitutional amendment, so they go around the legitimate process to dictate,and yep, that is precisely what it is. Robert Bork wrote a really interesting work on this very issue called "The Temptation of America"...worth a read, along with "Slouching Toward Gomorrah." (FYI Reston: that's a place in the Bible that was destroyed because of a certain sin...you can read that story for yourself).

Jack, Green, OH

It is true, but it does not mean that any ideas can be expressed anyplace at any time by any means. Society should have the right to restrict some speech to appropriate times and places. We don't need loudspeakers driving around neighborhoods preaching all day, or using the air waves in primetime to spout vile and offensive language or ideas. The basic concept of the quote is correct, of course.

Jack, Green, OH

You are so right Archer Too bad there are people in our government who want to go to the inverted type of constitution we have, allowing government to restrict rights instead of extend them...Whenever the Republicans are in power we get amendments like XVIII (1919), Prohibition, which caused so many problems it had to be repealed by XXI; or XX (1951), which prohibited a president from running a third time, no matter how many wanted him to. Then today they want to ban everything from gay marriage to flag burning in protest of the government, or barring a woman's right to her own body or euthanasia, even though voted for in Oregon.. None of the other 25 takes away a single right from anyone. Some politicians don't trust the people. They have to regulate everything. The irony is, those are the same people who advocate getting the government off our backs Give them enough time and we'll have a constitution like the ones you mentioned.

David L Rosenthal

Women's "reproductive rights" as they are called by many, or what Jack has called a "woman's right to her own body," is no right at all, when it is a euphemism for killing a viable fetus. No one has the right to kill an innocent person, Jack. I suppose you think that "partial-birth" abortion in the seventh or eighth month is also fine, where the viable fetus is pulled just far enough out to gain access to the head, and its brains are suctioned out while it watches in horror. Once the head of a live baby is out of the womb, it is not a fetus but a person, by any definition. Or perhaps we could stick an 80 -year-old man partially back in the womb and suck his brains out. Would you like that, Jack? Would you call that freedom or the right to get rid of an inconvenient pre-mortem specimen.

Jack, Green, OH

Who says so Rosenthal? What authority decides where a woman's body ends? Many of us who also oppose abortions (or we might not have had six kids), don't think it's our place, least of all the government's place, to determine that question. I don't have the same concept of a person and a fetus as you have, but I still think abortion is wrong. As for partial-birth, I am just as opposed to it as any abortion, but not for the same reasons you do.. A woman should have exercised her rights long before the third trimester if getting rid of a fetus is her only concern. You are pointing out exactly my point. There are people in our government who want to restrict rights by constitutional amendment, corrupting the kind of constitution Archer described. It is one thing to regulate such matters by state's rights and statute, but another to change the Constitution from limits on the government to limits on its citizens.

David L. Rosenthal

Who says what, Jack? You left no specific indication of to what your question refers. Premature babies very often survive to adulthood, especially those born in the seventh month, which is the most usual time for premature birth to take place. But even earlier births result in viable babies born. So what is the difference between aborting a fifth-month fetus or killing a fifth-month baby? None. And what is the difference between removing a fetus from the womb to suck out its brain and removing you from your rocker to suck out your brain? None. A baby out of the womb is as much a person as Jack out of the womb. Partial-birth abortion is murder.

Jack, Green, OH

Quoting your own statements, Rosenthal, "Women's reproductive rights... or what Jack has called a woman's right to her own body is no right at all when it is a euphemism for killing a viable fetus". Who says so? I say a woman has a right to her own body and a fetus is surely part of her body, no matter how some would twist into something else.

David L. Rosenthal

A fetus that can live outside the woman, without any support from her, is not part of her body. That is obvious. If it were not obvious, your mother would still have the right to abort you. If we are going to accept that a woman can kill a viable fetus, an independently living being, then any mother can kill any of her children, at any age.

Mike, Norwalk

I couldn't stay silent, I'm smiling too big. Archer, said very very well; along with Michael. David's last comment pretty much sums up that subject, though its away from the focus of the quote :-), :-).

Jack, Green, OH

You still miss the whole point, Rosenthal.. The argument is not over abortion, or gay marraige, or any other personal activity. It's about the Constitution, which Archer so succinctly descrubed, and which some people, who happen to always be of the party that stands for minimal government regulation, but want to change our unique constitution to one like any other, restricting the people, not the government They don't know what they are doing to our proudly held freedoms..

David L. Rosenthal

Jack: I was responding to a comment you made above, for reasons that are probably clear enough. The point of the quote and the point of your comment may be two different ones. In any case, abortion is not a right.

Jack, Green, OH

I told you abortion is wrong to me, David. What else do you want? But that does not make it wrong for everyone, and we don't need to revise our sacred Constitution to make it so. I simply used that, along with many other things the party of limited government would like to do to alter the basic principles of it. It is a state's right and the federal government should not tamper with the prerogatives of the states. The 10th amendment to the Constitution says: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. Why do they keep trying to amend it to do just that?

David L. Rosenthal

Er...I don't know...

Nancy Underwood, Chicago

This man helped insure that the fundamental difference of American democracy through free and uncensured speech, the unique ability of Americans to praise and disparage,would not perish under the strain of those abherrant occurances of abuse that threaten to upend the most essential Amendment of them all...

Cal, Lewisville, Texas

I remember when Brennan voted for abortion so maybe he feels the idea goes with this quote.

Ronw13, Oregon

Freedom of Speech and the Right to Privacy. Licentious Liberty is Built upon the Natural law of Moral Responsibility. Christian fundamentals of moral responsibility are woven within the fabric of our Declaration and Constitution. Designing factions with socialist intent of expanding progressive immoral behavior over time, have reach a breaking point in American society. Justice Brennan being of the Warren court, baggage left form FDR. infiltrating all levels of government. Legislating from the bench, subverting the Constitutions original intent, is gross neglect. and an act of treason. Life starts at conception, it is always best to teach and practice, that which promotes a wholesome life style. There would be fewer flag burning's and less abortion. Government funding for abortion is by nature, wrong. Yet, it is also wrong, to deny a woman her Right to Privacy. Common Sense was at one time more common. Now it is not. Goods have been scattered above and below deck for so long, with our Floundering Ship of State. Now with the opportunity to Right our Ship, it will demand setting in Order and the stowing away of goods once more ! Weak minds or bleeding hearts need not apply for the job. It is a very rough sea, we will be traveling fast to reach our Port of Call. It is a time of Call to Action, all the while, cries for justice, from socialist and enemies of our United States of America, enemies of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. One star, Brennan neglects the whole Truth and represents the enemy within the ranks, of Sound Judgement.

bruski, Naples FL

Great quote.

Should have reminded himself that issues such as abortion, education, energy etc. etc. should be left to the states.

The Supreme Court has overstepped its Constitutional limitations.


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