1st Amendment at stake in 2016 election

By Joseph Farah

Could 2016 be the last year America experiences the full protections of the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion?

Many have noted the importance of the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia and future openings likely to occur in the next four years.

There is no question those appointments by the next president will be critical to maintaining the kind of free and open society we’ve known for the last 240 years. Those appointments will have an impact on whether Americans will be free to speak their minds and follow their consciences without fear of retribution from government.

The importance of the Supreme Court should not be minimized. It is supremely important to First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

But there are other appointments that could well tip the balance against those “first freedoms.”

Consider the Federal Communications Commission, whose Republican appointees have signaled loudly and clearly that Democrat members have want to impose controls on the content of websites like the Drudge Report. Once the balance is lost between Democrats who seek to crush opposing points of view and Republicans who believe in the sanctity of the First Amendment, you can kiss freedom of speech goodbye.

That’s how close America is to losing its unique heritage of constitutionally protected political and religious expression.

But there are even more threats at stake in the 2016 election.

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We learned last week that the Federal Election Commission is also on the brink of punishing those with viewpoints, opinions and content that Democrats and “progressives” dislike and disagree with.

In 2012, Joel Gilbert made a controversial film called “Dreams of My Real Father,” focusing on key influences in the early life of Barack Obama. Three of the six commissioners – all Democrats – presumed the film was underwritten by Republican donors and sought to demand the filmmaker report who funded the project. Fortunately for Gilbert and the First Amendment, the three Republican appointees on the FEC blocked the fishing expedition.

“This is a dangerous development; free speech is literally hanging in the balance,” Gilbert said of the Democrats’ attempt to punish him. “It’s a harbinger of the intolerant suppression of First Amendment rights we should fear if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders should win the White House.”

Gilbert said the punishments could have included heavy fines, restrictions on his speech and even referral to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.

He predicted a “dire future” for conservatives if a Democrat wins the White House this fall.

I don’t think he is exaggerating one bit. I’ve been making my living as a practitioner of the First Amendment for 40 years. Our free-expression rights are hanging in the balance in 2016. It’s a question of simply how much Americans value free speech and freedom of religion.

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“If the make-up of the Federal Election Commission is changed because a Democrat wins the presidency and appoints one more Democrat than Republican to the commission, we face a dire future in which only political speech favorable to far-left agenda will be tolerated in America,” Gilbert said. “All conservative opinion, whether expressed in documentary films, shown on television or the Internet, or broadcast over radio may be subject to criminal penalties.”

Again, I don’t think this is hyperbole. It’s reality.

There’s a complete double-standard in the minds of Democrats and “progressives.” They believe in First Amendment protections for their ideas and viewpoints – just not for those with whom they disagree.

Michael Moore can do whatever he wants with this films. He won’t be harassed by Democrats or Republicans. But if someone uses Michael Moore-style filmmaking to expose Democrat corruption or “progressive” ideology, look out.

If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, do you think the Drudge Report will survive?

I can tell you from experience with the dirty tricks of the Clinton administration in the 1990s, a Hillary victory will mean all-out war on the independent media – which she characterizes as “the vast right-wing media conspiracy.”

It will also mean all-out war on the First Amendment.

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