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Notes 2A

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Bill of Rights Case 2A for Discussion

Criticizing the Government

On March 30th, 1981, President Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt. Ardith MacPherson, an office worker in Texas County sheriff's office, who heard about the attempt on the President's life on the radio. At the time she heard the news, Ms. MacPherson was talking with a friend at her desk in the office. Ms. McPherson told the friend that she was surprise that an attempt had been made sooner because of the Reagan Administration's policies concerning entitlement programs for the poor. Ms. McPherson said to a friend, "If they go for him again, I hope they get him."

Unfortunately for Ms. McPherson, another co-worker overheard her statement and reported it to the sheriff. the sheriff later fired Ms. McPherson for making this statement. Ms. McPherson sued the sheriff's office alleging that the firing violated the First Amendment freedom of speech rights .

Questions :

1) What difference would it have made if Ms. McPherson were a police officer rather than an office worker?

2) Would it matter if this occurs and she worked with the public as part of her job?

3) Is there a difference between criticizing the government and threatening an individual?

4) Would it make a difference if Ms. MacPherson had:

a) spoken so loudly as to be heard by the entire office staff?

b) been speaking to a member of the public that she did not know?