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The law does not always uphold ethics

The law does not always uphold ethics

By Jeff Ballif, Intern (@jeffballif)

Ethics are the guiding set of rules that govern our personal and professional lives. Often, however, we run into ethical choices in which we are forced to choose between actions that may be legal, but may not be ethical. These types of ethical questions can arise daily, especially in the communications industry. Whether in public relations, advertising, broadcasting or any other form of media, ethical dilemmas will arise.

One example of this is the freedom of speech case Near v. Minnesota. In this case, the state of Minnesota attempted to halt the publication of an anti-Semetic article written by Jay Near, citing it as a violation of a state statute that banned ‘nuisance speech.’ Near then sued the state for repressing his freedom of speech. While the Minnesota Supreme Court held that the statute was legal, the final decision was made by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the state did not have the constitutional right to prevent publication of Near’s article.

Although it was declared legal to print the article that featured anti-Semetic sentiment, the ruling did not make it ethical to print such material. Near v. Minnesota illustrates that what is legal isn’t always ethical.

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