Government speech

Although the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause limits government regulation of private speech, it does not restrict the government when the government speaks for itself. For example, if the government allows private groups to hold rallies in a public park, it may not exclude a white supremacist rally solely because it disagrees with the rally’s message. See Forums. The city is not, however, required to include the white supremacists’ message when it holds diversity programs at its schools. This doctrine does not allow the government to ignore other parts of the Constitution. For example, even though government speech is not regulated by the Free Speech Clause, it is still subject to the Establishment Clause.

It is not always clear when the government is speaking for itself instead of unconstitutionally restricting others’ speech. For example, the Supreme Court said that when the government funds family-planning programs, it may forbid healthcare providers in the program from answering pregnant women’s questions about abortion. See Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1991). When the government funds a program helping poor people get lawyers, however, the Court said that it may not forbid lawyers in the program from helping poor people challenge or amend welfare laws. See Legal Services Corp. v. Velazquez, 531 U.S. 533 (2001). The Supreme Court has not yet stated a clear standard for this type of cases.

 

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