Would it be legal for me to hold up this sign in front of the White House, the Capitol, or the SCOTUS building?



1 Answer 1



The case you want to know about is Cohen v. California: A young man was arrested for wearing a jacket with the words "Fuck the Draft" and SCOTUS decided, that that was First Amendment-protected speech and the arrest illegal.

The phrase מנא מנא תקל ופרסין is in Akkadian or Aramaic language but Hebrew script (as opposed to the Akkadian Cuneiform) and can be transcribed as Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin. It is also known in German as "Menetekel" or in English as the "Writing on the wall". It stems from the biblical episode of Belshazzar's feast. Literally, the text would be read as "counted, counted, weighed, distributed". Its meaning elaborated in Daniel 5 is generally understood as "Your days are numbered; Your days are numbered; You have been measured and found wanting; Your kingdom will fall and be divided". While stemming from religious texts, in the depicted situation it is more likely meant as political speech, and in that fashion indistinguishable from a flag.

It also does not call for imminent lawless action - the so-called Brandenburg Test after Brandenburg v Ohio - and thus remains in the protected speech area. Remember, that even preaching genocide can be First amendment protected, as long as that line of imminent lawless action is not overstepped.

As this phrase does neither, it is protected speech.

  • 1
    Menetekel is a German word. It is not used in English nor as far as I can tell in any other language. The original phrase is Aramaic, not Hebrew.
    – phoog
    Apr 13, 2023 at 14:12
  • 1
    @phoog Akkadian with Hebrew script as far as I can tell.
    – Trish
    Apr 13, 2023 at 14:45
  • 1
    @trish, how do you determine that the language is Akkadian?
    – user6726
    Apr 13, 2023 at 14:52
  • 1
    @user6726 conflicting research papers... some say Akkadian, others say aramaic.
    – Trish
    Apr 13, 2023 at 14:54
  • 1
    But your answer asserts that it is Akkadian, though Akkadian does not have lenition of p to ph as Aramaic and Hebrew do.
    – user6726
    Apr 13, 2023 at 14:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .