Phrases like "shall make no law," "shall not be infringed," etc. seem to imply the rights are absolute. Why is this not how SCOTUS has interpreted the Constitution?

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    Another possible reading is that "no law" really is absolute, but that laws against obscenity, revealing classified information, etc, do not actually abridge "the freedom of speech", because "the freedom of speech" never included the right to say those things. Jul 4, 2022 at 23:52
  • @NateEldredge and that same argument could be made that there is no right to keep and bear nuclear bombs, so regulating them is not infringing the right to keep and bear arms?
    – Someone
    Jul 5, 2022 at 0:40
  • Indeed this is that Alito wrote in upholder Heller vs Washington D.C.: "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues." Jul 9, 2022 at 2:31

1 Answer 1


Because people inevitably come into conflict exercising different aspects of their rights. For example, the 1st amendment says that congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. Someone who runs a sound truck around a residential neighborhood at 3am extolling the candidate of their choice would be exercising their right of free speech but it would be a significant negative impact on all the folks in that neighborhood trying to sleep. Governments and the courts have to balance the free speech rights of the person running the sound truck versus the rights of other citizens to go about their lives.

In this case the compromise is that cities and states can pass noise ordinances that restrict the hours when amplified sound systems can be used, but such restrictions have to be content neutral.

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