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Chicago Civil Rights Lawyer

In the United States, we are afforded considerable and wide-ranging protections related to our freedom of expression. Part of the strict scrutiny that protects us is the least restrictive means test, which is a mechanism for balancing constitutional rights with government interests. The bottom line is that laws must protect compelling state interests via means that restrict speech and other forms of personal expression as little as possible. 

If your First Amendment right to free speech – or any other constitutional right – has been violated, turn to an experienced Chicago civil rights lawyer for the help you need. 

Least Restrictive Means vs. a Balancing Approach

A prime example of the least restrictive means test in action occurs in United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group. In this Supreme Court case, a federal law that required cable operators to either scramble sexually explicit content or funnel it solely to late-night programming was struck down. The upshot was that the law regulating content didn’t employ the least restrictive means of ensuring that minors didn’t have access to sexually explicit content, which was blocking specific channels when requested to do so by subscribers. 

Not all Supreme Court justices, however, turn to the least restrictive means test – or to any other form of strict scrutiny – and, instead, embrace a balancing approach called minimal scrutiny. When this is the case, the government must demonstrate only a rational or legitimate reason for a law that fails to uphold freedom of expression. This position affords citizens with fewer protections in relation to expressive freedom. 

The complex arguments and case law involved in defending a freedom of expression case make it essential that citizens have legal guidance from an experienced Chicago civil rights lawyer.

Religious Freedom

The shift away from the least restrictive means test toward a balanced approach has had the most significant consequences in the realm of religious freedoms. In 1963, the Court implemented a three-point system that strengthened protections for religious freedoms, including:

  • Does the law restrict religious freedom?
  • Is there a compelling state interest that justifies the law?
  • Even if the state has a compelling interest, is there an alternate means of protecting the interest without violating religious freedom?

When a law substantially imposes on religious freedoms or is content-based, the Court implements the increased protections of the least restrictive means test.

Public Health Measures

Another primary arena when it comes to least restrictive means is public healthcare measures, such as how effective they are at minimizing the spread of infectious disease, which often requires more significant interventions. At this point, what is known as value pluralism comes into play. In these cases, the appropriate least restrictive means is the one that imposes the fewest restrictions while taking all the following into careful consideration:

  • Overall effectiveness 
  • Fairness
  • Well-being
  • Equality
  • Feasibility

In other words, the matter is complicated, and working closely with a dedicated Chicago civil rights attorney is to your advantage.

Reach Out for the Skilled Legal Guidance of an  Experienced Chicago Civil Rights Lawyer Today

The focused Chicago civil rights attorneys at The Law Offices of George M. Sanders have a wealth of impressive experience successfully defending our valued clients’ civil rights, and we’re here for you, too. Learn more by contacting us today.


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