July 2010 – It’s Independence Day – our nation’s 234th birthday. Americans across the nation will celebrate with friends, food and fireworks. Many will gather in backyards with grills, games and grandkids. Others will congregate on the lawns of city hall. Some will go to church and sing patriotic songs.
But how many will reflect upon the source of the freedom that allows them to peaceably assemble?
On December 15, 1787, the Founding Fathers ratified the Bill of Rights into the U. S. Constitution. On top of the list was, as we refer to it today, the First Amendment. The ideas contained in this amendment were critical to our founders. For within that short paragraph are the freedoms of religion, speech, press and peaceful assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the First Amendment was seen as of utmost importance. Today, however, it is often forgotten, misunderstood and misrepresented by those who educate our children as well as by leaders such as Rahm Emmanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.
According to NewsBusters.com, while at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2009, Emmanuel instructed an unnamed reporter:s “When you think about the First Amendment, you think it’s highly overrated.” There is great irony in telling a reporter he thinks too highly of the freedom that guarantees his right to do his job.
Amazingly, or perhaps bewilderingly, Emmanuel is not alone is his view of the First Amendment. Marc Lloyd is the chief diversity officer of the Federal Communications Commission. In his 2006 book, Prologue to a Farce, he said, “It should be clear by now that my focus here is not freedom of speech or the press.”
Lloyd authored a report titled The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio. According to his report, Lloyd believes that all talk radio should be forced to offer equal time to progressive,* or liberal, personalities and conservative personalities. If station owners do not comply, they should be fined, and the money taken from them should go to state-owned stations, where progressive ideas are often promoted.
Likewise, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan wrote a 1996 article titled “Private Speech, Public Service: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine.” She wrote, “If there is an ‘overabundance’ of an idea in the absence of indirect governmental action – which there well might be when compared with some ideal state of public debate – then action disfavoring that idea might ‘un-skew,’ rather than skew, public discourse.”
The article also revealed that Kagan believes there are too many conservative voices. She contends that the government should step in to “un-skew” and help public discourse along.
Harold Koh, legal advisor for the State Department, offered a similar perspective to Kagan’s. He said, “Our exceptional free speech tradition can cause problems abroad, as, for example, may occur when hate speech is disseminated over the Internet.” He later said the Supreme Court “can moderate these conflicts by applying more consistently the transnationalist approach to judicial interpretation.”
In other words, the high court should look to how other countries view free speech rather than our own Constitution when making their decisions.
The larger view of the First Amendment held by those surrounding the White House is frightening. Whether the view is that the First Amendment is overrated, that government should be responsible for making sure every view gets equal airing, or that public speech should be curtailed for the good of the people, Americans have reason for great concern.
In years past, freedom of speech was seen as one of the most important freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Former Supreme Court Justice William Douglas once said, “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”
The pendulum has swung from Justice Douglas, the longest sitting justice in history, to Kagan, Obama’s progressive, leftist nominee. If free speech needs to be un-skewed, perhaps the American people can do it for themselves.
The beauty of American speech is that we have every right to be wrong. But we also have the right to debate someone we believe to be wrong.
Will America side with those who wrote the Constitution and enshrined its freedoms with their blood? Or will we accept those who believe our Constitutional freedoms are overrated and out of date? Our freedom of speech hangs in the balance.
*“A progressive is someone who hates what we were and wants to be something different. We are the most successful, stable, prosperous nation in the world but they want to be different. The way they attempt to bring about change is to separate you from your heritage and traditions.”
David Barton, founder of Wallbuilders