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The government generally has a freer hand in restricting expressive conduct than it has in restricting the written or spoken word. See O'Brien, 391 U.S. at 391 U. S. 376-377; Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U. S. 288, 468 U. S. 293 (1984); Dallas v. Stanglin, 490 U. S. 19, 490 U. S. 25 (1989). It may not proscribe particular conduct because it has expressive elements. '[W]hat might be termed the more generalized guarantee of freedom of expression makes the communicative nature of conduct an inadequate basis for singling out that conduct for proscription. A law directed at the communicative nature of conduct must, like a law directed at speech itself, be justified by the substantial showing of need that the First Amendment requires.' Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Watt, 227 U.S.App.D.C. 19, 55-56, 703 F.2d 586, 622-623 (1983) (Scalia, J., dissenting) (emphasis in original), rev'd sub nom. Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, supra. It is, in short, not simply the verbal or nonverbal nature of the expression, but the governmental interest at stake, that helps to determine whether a restriction on that expression is valid.

The Supreme Court has recognized that, where ...

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