In mid-1990, a white juvenile in St. Paul was arrested for burning a cross inside the fenced yard of a black family. The juvenile was charged with violating St. Paul's Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance, which prohibited the placement of any symbol on public or private party that aroused anger in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender. The juvenile moved to dismiss this charge, claiming that it was overbroad and impermissibly content-based under the First Amendment. The trial court granted this motion. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ordinance prohibited only "fighting words," which, since the United States Supreme Court's decision in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), had been deemed unworthy of any First Amendment protection. Regulation of speech based on the content of the speech is presumptively invalid under the First Amendment. Consolidated Edison Co. of N.Y. v. Public Serv. Comm'n of N.Y., 447 U.S. 530 (1980). In some cases, however, such as "fighting words," defamation, and obscenity, the Court has held that the content of the speech is of such slight social value that the speech is unworthy of First Amendment protection. See, e.g., Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957) (obscenity); Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343 U.S. 250 (1952) (defamation); Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942) (fighting words).

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