Emory Law Journal


This Article explores the relationship between free speech and harm. Examining the historical First Amendment justifications, it argues that harm is a relevant criterion in determining the scope of speech protection. But this Article also resists the notion that speech should be restricted solely based upon resultant damage, demonstrating instead that the freedom to speak freely actually forestalls rather than causes individual and societal harm. Drawing upon psychological and sociological theories related to the treatment of sex offenders, the Article posits that the ability to engage in free expression is critical to preventing physical and emotional damage to others. Individuals who have the ability to speak freely about their emotions, opinions, and identities are less likely to engage in rebellion, aggression, and crime. In this way, free speech provides a therapeutic alternative to harmful behavior. These therapeutic qualities of expression provide a justification for protecting rather than silencing it.