Cover image for The Freedom not to speak
The Freedom not to speak
Bosmajian, Haig A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
v, 241 pages ; 24 cm
Heresy, the Inquisition, and coerced speech -- Coerced speech in early America -- "I do solemnly swear ..." in mid-twentieth century America -- From "I pledge allegiance ..." to "Are you a member of ...?" -- Coerced speech and Un-American Activities Committees -- A freedom not to speak.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF4772 .B67 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Hotly contested and vigorously defended since it was first written into the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is a basic right that all Americans hold dear. But what of the freedom not to speak? Should, for instance, a special prosecutor be able to compel a mother to testify about, and incriminate, her own daughter? The freedom not to speak is an implicit "right" that holds great relevance for all of us-the freedom not to speak when commanded by church and state, not to sign an oath, not to salute a flag, not to assert a belief in God, or not to reveal one's political beliefs and associations.

Bosmajian traces the history of the freedom not to speak from the Middle Ages and Inquisition to the twentieth century and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. His history addresses the Civil War and Reconstruction loyalty oaths by Union Confederate soldiers, and the expulsion of Jehovah's Witnesses from schools for refusing to salute the flag, and includes an analysis of coerced speech in a variety of literary works. Bosmajian also contemplates the future of this right to silence and argues for the importance of a specifically labeled and firmly established freedom not to speak.

Author Notes

Haig Bosmajian is Professor of Speech Communication at the University of Washington.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The First Amendment guarantees individuals the right of free of speech. Does it also give one the right not to speak? Bosmajian (speech, Univ. of Washington) says yes, but the US Supreme Court has never unequivocally stated that individuals have a right not to profess their political views. This book provides a historical overview, including a discussion about Joan of Ark, Galileo, Sir Thomas More, and others who were forced to confess their political views and were persecuted either for what they said or refused to say. Bosmajian also notes that from the Salem witch trials through the 1950s communist witch-hunts Americans were compelled to state their political beliefs or persecuted if they remained silent. Although the courts permitted this, they also held that one had a right to remain silent in terms of religion. Thus, Bosmajian contends that when the next political persecution de jour comes around, there is no guarantee that the First Amendment will protect silence and will halt government persecution unless the courts clearly extend the right to remain silent to the political setting. This is a suitable companion to books on the First Amendment, free speech, political persecution, and legal history. Recommended at all levels. D. Schultz; Hamline University

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 Heresy, the Inquisition, and Coerced Speechp. 15
2 Coerced Speech in Early Americap. 40
3 "I Do Solemnly Swear ..." in Mid-Twentieth-Century Americap. 63
4 From "I Pledge Allegiance ..." to "Are You a Member of ...?"p. 104
5 Coerced Speech and Un-American Activities Committeesp. 142
6 A Freedom Not to Speakp. 167
Notesp. 207
Indexp. 233
About the Authorp. 241