Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States and the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, repeatedly affirmed the rights of conscience as embodied in the First Amendment’s protection of speech, religion, and peaceful assembly. To quote him:
“No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience.”
What was Jefferson referring to as “conscience”? Prior to the American Revolution, particularly in the early 1700s and late 1600s, Americans were forced to support churches not of their choosing. In some colonies, ministers of non-approved denominations were imprisoned and even hanged. From the memory of this intolerance came insistence upon a Bill of Rights being included in the newly ratified Constitution.
For 200 years these rights were tested and expanded by the courts into a clearly defined body of law that protected the most important rights of humanity: the right to speak your mind without fear of legal prosecution. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be social or economic repercussions; others have the right to disagree with your speech and exercise their own First Amendment right by sanctioning your speech via social isolation and vehemently disagreeing with your views while expounding upon their own. Objectionable speech is best opposed by reasoned speech, not by mob violence or censorship by government.
A growing, disturbing trend from a once vigorous defender of free speech emanates from the academic community. A few years ago I attended an event at Cal Poly that hosted Dr. Robert Spencer who specialized in the intellectual fight against radical Islamic Jihad. A number of Cal Poly students attended, most from various social science disciplines. As soon as Spencer began to speak, a number of students angrily left the room as a form of protest against Spencer’s message, exercising their disagreement via the First Amendment without, however, hearing a word he had to say. A number of Muslim students remained for Spencer’s entire talk, asking pointed questions at the end of the event.
At the end of Spencer’s talk a young woman stated that Spencer shouldn’t be allowed to speak on college campuses as her First Amendment rights protected her against (what she considered) hate speech. She was a senior, scheduled to graduate in a few weeks, a sad commentary on how indoctrination has replaced critical thinking in our universities. Several attorneys present in the audience proceeded to correct her misinterpretation of the First Amendment, which protects objectionable speech against the tyranny of the majority….
Allowing the government to censor the speech of unpopular groups will inevitably lead to suppression of all views not approved by the government.
Trump to sign resolution condemning “White nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups”
Great idea, right? No sane person supports the Klan and neo-Nazis. But here again we see the palsied hand of the Southern Poverty Law Center. When perfectly legitimate organizations are falsely classified as “hate groups” and lumped in with the KKK and neo-Nazis by that well-heeled hate and smear machine, against whom will “all available resources” be used? This resolution, which pointedly doesn’t name violent Leftist groups such as Antifa, is more of the Left using Charlottesville as its Reichstag Fire moment, to crush all dissent.
Remember: when this resolution refers to “hate groups,” the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t have any competitors. Its “hate group” list is the only one around, and the only one that government officials will refer to when they begin to put teeth into this resolution and shut down those “hate groups.” That means that groups opposing jihad terror and unrestricted immigration, and defending traditional values will be targeted and destroyed.
Trump shouldn’t be going along with this. But the swamp appears to have drained him.
Many Americans don’t seem to appreciate as much as outside admirers do, that the United States is the only country in the world with a commitment to free speech enshrined in the nation’s Constitution. Many nations do not even have codified constitution of which to speak.
Which is why it is almost more egregious to the outsider than the American that such protections are under assault, not just on the streets of Berkeley or Charlottesville, but in your legislature — and soon in your Oval Office.
This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed President Trump would “absolutely” be signing a resolution drafted by Republican and Democrat lawmakers “condemning” hatred.
“He and [Senator Tim Scott] talked about that and discussed that and agreed that that was the appropriate place to be,” Sanders said. “In terms of whether or not he’ll sign the joint resolution, absolutely, and he looks forward to doing so as soon as he receives it.”
But the resolution is manifestly a ruse — the first line of attack in a new wave of assaults against free speech in America.
Let’s examine what the motion, passed by both legislative chambers early this week, says.
The preamble, in addition to expressing “support for the Charlottesville community,” demands of the President that he rejects “White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups” and urges him and his cabinet to “use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups”.
From the outset this is disingenuous and troublesome.
The President has already disavowed these groups, including Neo Nazis and the KKK. Why are elected members, alongside the White House, wasting time virtue signaling over it?
Perhaps because it backs POTUS into a corner, especially when you consider many establishment media organizations call his former Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon — who has mocked and derided ethno-nationalists — a “white nationalist” or “white supremacist”. This week, ESPN even let one of its hosts off with no more than a slapped wrist for suggesting the President himself was a “white supremacist”.
So by whose definitions are we going? And what exactly does “use all available resources” mean?
The President and his cabinet ostensibly have all resources available to them. The U.S. military, trillions of dollars, three and a half years of power. To what is the President subscribing?
Whatever happened to the old line by Voltaire, “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too”, or as it was paraphrased by Evelyn Beatrice Hall writing under the pseudonym S.G. Tallentyre in Friends of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”?
Personally, I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant for hateful beliefs.
The U.S. Constitution is perfectly clear on this too. No matter how vile your views — as those of the KKK and Neo Nazi groups are — you still have a right to express them in America.
The fact the Supreme Court had to readdress this fact only earlier this year is harbinger enough of the assault on liberty we are about to witness.
In June, Justice Kennedy opined in the case of Matal v. Tam:
A law found to discriminate based on viewpoint is an “egregious form of content discrimination,” which is “presumptively unconstitutional.” … A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.
Justice Alito said at the time:
[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”
Obvious enough to you or me. But not self-evident enough for your representatives or even your President, if Ms. Huckabee Sanders is correct.
The five page document the President is now committed to signing refers to violence on the side of Neo Nazi protesters, but fails to mention Antifa, or any other leftist-inspired violence, including but not limited to the Bernie Sanders supporter who recently attempted to murder Republican congressmen.
It demands signatories “speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy” — laudable aims were it not for the fact that the political left has abused and debased these terms, effectively stripping them of all meaning.
Today, a “racist” is someone who believes in legal immigration. An “extremist” is someone who doesn’t believe in mass, state-funded abortion. A “xenophobe” is someone who takes pride in their nation. An “anti-Semite” is — curiously — someone who supports the State of Israel, and “white supremacy” now occupies the Oval Office. The Overton window has shifted so far that even practicing Muslims are now decried by the most heavily quoted sources as “Islamophobes”….
“Congress votes to call on Trump to denounce hate groups,” by Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters, September 13, 2017:
(Reuters) – The U.S. Congress passed a resolution late on Tuesday calling on President Donald Trump to condemn hate groups after Trump was criticized for his response to the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a month ago.
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously adopted the resolution, U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, said in a statement. The Senate approved the measure on Monday.
“Tonight, the House of Representatives spoke in one unified voice to unequivocally condemn the shameful and hate-filled acts of violence carried out by the KKK (Ku Klux Klan), white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville,” Connolly said.
The joint resolution, passed with the support of both Republicans and Democrats, will go to Trump for his signature.
Representatives for the White House did not respond immediately to an email seeking comment.
The Congressional resolution calls on Trump to condemn hate groups and what it describes as the growing prevalence of extremists who support anti-Semitism, xenophobia and white supremacy.
It also urges Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate acts of violence and intimidation by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and similar groups
Sources: NY Times, Breitbart, and Jihad Watch