Freedom of Speech: Understanding the First Amendment

Belmont University College of Law

Audio Sample:

Free speech lies at the heart of what it means to be an American. It was something the Founding Fathers recognized early on—in the first 45 words of the Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment grants us freedom of religion and the press, as well as the rights to petition and peaceful assembly. But perhaps no doctrine is as important to liberty as the freedom of speech. Broadly seen as an essential tool for discourse and progress, the freedom of speech has also at times been viewed as a haven for hateful sentiments.

So what is protected speech? What are its limits?

In this 12-lecture audio course, First Amendment expert Professor David L. Hudson, Jr., leads you on a gripping tour of free speech law in the United States. Holding it up as a blueprint for personal liberty, you will examine the history of the First Amendment as well as the terminology and theories that undergird it.

Freedom of speech encompasses all manner of expressive conduct, including symbolic speech. Through a close reading of the Free Speech Clause and a recap of the Founding Fathers’ historical moment, you’ll see why it was and continues to be a cornerstone of American identity.

In five short hours, this course gives you the opportunity to comprehend the historical, legal, and philosophical basis for one of your most vital rights and the debates around it.

Learn about downloadable programs.

Your Free Electronic Study Guide! When you order this course, we will send you a free electronic study guide that you can access in 3 convenient ways:

1) You can check your order confirmation email. It will include a link that enables you to download your guide. 2) The back of your program package also contains a copy of this link. You can access your guide by simply entering this URL into your browser. 3) Your case of CDs or DVDs will contain a copy of your electronic guide on CD. Simply insert this disc into your computer's CD/DVD drive to access your guide.


  • First Amendment Overview
  • First Amendment Tools and Terminology
  • Living by Symbols: Symbolic Speech and Expressive Conduct
  • Incitement, Fighting Words, and True Threats
  • Obscenity
  • Commercial Speech
  • Defamation
  • Privacy and IIED
  • Public School Students (K–12)
  • Public Employees
  • Two Dangerous Doctrines
  • College and University Campuses

David L. Hudson, Jr. is a First Amendment expert. He has authored, co-authored, or co-edited more than 40 books, including The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech (Thomson Reuters, 2012); Let the Students Speak!: A History of the Fight for Freedom of Expression in American Schools (Beacon Press, 2011), and The Encyclopedia of the First Amendment (CQ Press, 2008). Hudson is a Justice Robert H. Jackson Fellow for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and a First Amendment Fellow with the Freedom Forum Institute. A graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, he writes regularly for the ABA Journal and the American Bar Association.

Praise for David L. Hudson

“David Hudson has consulted, written, and spoken widely on free speech and related First Amendment issues to groups that have included high school teachers, news reporters, college students, and fellow professors. He is especially knowledgeable about the area of student speech. His knowledge is both deep and wide, and his presentations are well researched and engaging. His role in contributing to the Encyclopedia of the First Amendment and its online updates has been indispensable.”
– Dr. John R. Vile, Professor of Political Science and Dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University

“David Hudson is a true expert on the First Amendment. His knowledge of First Amendment case law and legal principles, as well as his ability to explain them to an audience regardless of its familiarity with the issues involved, makes him a perfect commentator for a program on the freedom of speech. I highly recommend listening to David’s take on this essential freedom.”
– Joe Cohn, Legislative & Policy Director Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

“David Hudson is a thoughtful and thought-provoking authority on the First Amendment, whose work reflects his deep understanding of freedom of speech and its vital role in our democracy.”
– Ken A. Paulson, Dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University and President of the First Amendment Center


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