Forums for Speech

By Paul Schonauer on Mar 16, 2021 at 02:43 PM in What Does it Mean

Forums for Speech

Three types of forums for regulating speech are recognized in law.  The first is the traditional public forum, such as a street, sidewalks, or public park, held in trust for public use and a traditional place for public discourse and discussion.

The state (government) may also designate a public property as a limited public forums, such as meeting rooms at the townhall or municipal building.

A nonpublic forum is public property that has not been designated for public expression either by way of tradition or government designation.  Examples include military bases or schools.  What remains are private forums.

        Regulation of Speech in Forums

                     Tradition and Designated Public Forums

The state (government) may regulate content-based expression as long as the regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and that it is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest, that is, no more and no less than is required to achieve the government interest.  The State may also regulate the time, place, and manner of expression as long as the regulation is content-neutral, is narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and ample alternative channels of communication exist.  Examples of time, place, and manner regulations include noise ordinances, permits for public demonstrations and limiting the number of participants, barring what time of day demonstrations may happen, and regulating the size and placement of signage on public property.

If the state designates a non-tradition public forum as a public forum, on a limited basis or otherwise, the state need not retain that designation indefinitely, but as long as the space is designated, it is bound by the same standards as apply in a traditional public forum.

                   Non-Public Forums

The state may also regulate speech on public property that is not traditionally or designation a public forum.  In addition to time, place, and manner regulations, the state may regulate state property for its intended purposes as long as the regulation on speech is reasonable and not intended to suppress expression based on viewpoint.  Examples include the prohibition on wearing of hats on school campuses, as long as the regulation bans all hats, or does not ban hat’s based on content of epression on the hat.