University of San Diego School of Law
Constitutional Commentary, 2006
San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-51
In this essay I take up the question of whether and how we are harmed when government compels us to utter propositions whose truth we reject or which we find offensive for other reasons. I conclude that none of the various explanations offered - that we suffer harm to our autonomy, to our epistemic capacity, to our integrity, to our control over self-presentation, to our compliance with social norms or performative norms, or to our preference not to deceive others - is ultimately satisfactory. Along the way I offer a taxonomy of the Supreme Court's "compelled speech" cases, arguing that only West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette and Wooley v. Maynard actually raise the issue of compelled speech. I also introspect about the phenomenology of uttering propositions we do not believe, and how that compares to singing such propositions in hymns, or reciting them in plays.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 21
Keywords: compelled speech, freedom of belief, autonomy
JEL Classification: K1, K10
Date posted: August 1, 2006