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clear and present danger

The standard set by the Supreme Court for judging when freedom of speech may lawfully be limited. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., illustrated the point by arguing that no one has a constitutional right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater when no fire is present, for such action would pose a “clear and present danger” to public safety. (See First Amendment (see also First Amendment).)

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.