It greatly alarms me that Americans’ constitutional right to freedom of speech is being squeezed out of our culture.
One of the genius actions of America’s Founding Fathers was to provide and secure the firm foundation in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Several years ago, I remember watching then “20/20” correspondent Diane Sawyer interview Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq. She was respectfully confronting him for atrocities and executions as punishments for people merely speaking a word against him, his rule or his politics. Surprisingly naïve of America’s constitutional basis, Saddam asked, “Well, what happens to those who speak against your president?” (His rhetorical question was clearly expecting that such speech was also a crime in the U.S. and punishable by law.) Shocked by his sheer ignorance of the U.S., and somewhat at a loss of words herself, Diane quipped back in answering his question, “They host television talk shows!” Saddam’s facial expression revealed that he was totally confused by her answer.
Sounds so far out, doesn’t it? Offensive speech being punishable by law? But it might not be that far off for America, especially if the course of our right for freedom of speech continues on its present track – a path of progressive restrictions, both from our government and our culture.
For example, as I mentioned in last week’s column, presently, bill S. 909 is on the fast track through Senate, poised under the guise of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. But in the end it could not only criminalize opinions (an unconstitutional act) but also provide elevated protection to pedophiles.
While the bill purports to target crimes of brutality, not speech, it could very easily end up (even inadvertently) restricting First Amendment rights to speak freely against any practices or beliefs with which we don’t agree. As with other laws of this type, once enacted, local justices could easily expand its interpretive enforcement to encompass a wider meaning than originally conceived.
If our policy makers understood and followed the constitutional government our founders laid down for us, they never would advocate any so called hate-crime speech bill. As Rep. Ron Paul once stated:
Hate crime laws not only violate the First Amendment, they also violate the 10th Amendment. Under the United States Constitution, there are only three federal crimes: piracy, treason and counterfeiting. All other criminal matters are left to the individual states. Any federal legislation dealing with criminal matters not related to these three issues usurps state authority over criminal law and takes a step toward turning the states into mere administrative units of the federal government.
I again encourage Americans everywhere to join several hundred thousand Americans who have already voiced their opposition of the bill’s passage. You can voice your opposition to all 100 senators by clicking here.
Limiting free speech is not just happening through legal ends, but through social avenues as well. It was tragic to watch this past week at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner how the present administration provided the platform then laughed at a parade of mean-spirited, cruel jokes that made fun of Rush Limbaugh’s history of addiction to painkillers, wished him kidney failure and suggested he might have been the 20th hijacker involved in 9/11. Is that even funny? Despite that I believe even this offensive language is protected by the First Amendment, is it the type of belittling humor we should expect at a White House function? When the Feds seek to silence their critics through intimidation and social demise, have they not failed to properly lead a blended nation and uphold the heart of the Constitution? Mark my words that the reinstitution of the “Fairness Doctrine,” which will subject talk radio among other media to government regulation, is right around the corner.
Government isn’t the only one restricting free speech. We recently witnessed many in our culture clamping down on the basic American right via the travesty of response to Miss California and Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean giving her honest opinion to a question during the Miss USA contest. As a result of her speaking freely about her personal convictions, she’s been persecuted for her opinion and even received death threats from those who oppose her.
Whatever one believes about the boundaries of marriage or how one feels about scanty modeling photos is far secondary to Miss Prejean being culturally harassed and persecuted on account of her merely speaking her honest opinion about traditional marriage, especially in response to a question asked by a judge during a beauty pageant. As she said this last week in her press conference with Donald Trump, “This shouldn’t happen in America!”
And, when she answered the pageant judge, it was even done with respect and kindness. But what if it were demeaning like the jokes at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner? There seems to be a double-standard when it comes to free speech in society. Shall certain camps be expected not to offend while others are free to do so? If the First Amendment is not also there to protect anyone’s offensive speech, then what type of speech is it protecting? And if it protects even unpleasant and distasteful speech as well, yet our culture remains intolerant of offensive speech, than have we not abandoned the First Amendment?
With millions of others, I commend Miss California for a host of things: for standing by her convictions and basic American right of free speech, for not bending to the politically correct and Left opinions, for not fearing public scrutiny, for not yielding her principles and, especially, for not valuing her crown more than the King of kings’. She’s a model and beacon of free speech rights in the midst of a generation that often waffles in fear of truth, personal convictions, variant opinion and a tolerant proliferation. She’s a reminder to us all of what the First Amendment is all about. And that is why I deem Carrie Prejean also “the Chuck Norris of free speech.” (You can listen to Dr. Dobson’s revealing two-part interview with Carrie at Focus on the Family’s website)
I don’t care what your cause is. I don’t care what your mission is. I don’t care what the issues. I don’t care what your beliefs are. It is every American citizen’s constitutional right to speak freely, without fear of repercussion. It’s simply un-American and unconstitutional to impede, harass, threaten or persecute anyone who is guilty of nothing more than sharing their opinion or even exercising their right to vote. This is America – not Saddam’s Iraq!
Our founders cry out from their graves and heaven for us to remember what they established – a nation free from tyranny and oppression. Thomas Jefferson was particularly passionate and eloquent at this point with these words that are now indelibly inscribed on the memorial in Washington named after him. Whether to the dominance of religious sectarianism or the prohibition of free speech, his words apply: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility toward any tyranny over the mind of men.” So have I. Have you?
America, when free speech is restricted or punished, we can be certain that we’ve drifted from our roots. Isn’t it time we returned home to the Constitution?