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Teacher Guide: Does the First Amendment Allow the Government to Censor Art? 

Roberto Rossellini's 1948 film "Il Miracolo."
A poster for Roberto Rossellini’s 1948 film “Il Miracolo.” The film became the subject of a Supreme Court case in 1952 when New York State’s Board of Regents censored the film because they deemed it “sacrilegious.” Wikimedia Commons.

For much of our nation’s history, the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech did not clearly protect art from government censorship. Over the course of the 20th century, however, courts gradually extended speech protections to a broader range of artistic expression, including film, dance, theater, and fine arts. Today, public officials can censor art only in limited circumstances. What are those circumstances, and what protection does the First Amendment provide?

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