Why are bumper stickers considered a form of speech?
Bumper stickers are a form of protected speech because they convey messages on an endless variety of topics. In fact, many bumper stickers contain political speech, the core type of speech protected by the First Amendment. Protected speech can take many forms, from black armbands to buttons to decals to flags to other forms of nonverbal expression.
Are bumper stickers with profanity protected under the First Amendment?
Yes, the First Amendment protects even a profane bumper sticker unless the sticker meets the legal definition of obscenity or constitutes fighting words. The First Amendment protects a great deal of expression that many people find offensive. However, it would be a rare case for a bumper sticker to be considered legally obscene or fighting words. It should be noted that a few states do have laws that prohibit obscene and patently offensive bumper stickers.
Does it matter if a bumper sticker is displayed at a public employee's workplace, or on public school grounds?
There are special bodies of case law in First Amendment jurisprudence for public employees and public school students. Both public employees and public school students retain a measure of free-expression rights at work and school. That’s because public employers are government officials who must respect the protections of the Bill of Rights. However, the courts often give deference to public employers and particularly public school officials in First Amendment cases.