Free speech still in peril

The fight to preserve self-expression is never over

  • Follow Editorials

Freedom is like a well-tended lawn. The work is never done.

You would think that we could rest comfortably on our First Amendment, for instance. It’s been there since 1791. It’s almost in the American DNA.

Yet, the fundamental human rights recognized by the First Amendment are neither globally accepted nor secure.

Did you know that you could be charged with a crime for expressing the “wrong” opinion even in Western Europe?

And as news reports put it, a recent judicial paper on the press in Britain “urged Parliament to pass a law creating a new voluntary regulatory body for the country’s newspapers.”

While participation in the regulatory agency would be voluntary, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke for many when he cautioned, “For the first time we would have crossed the Rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land.”

Such a law is strictly forbidden in the United States, thanks to the First Amendment, which says in whole: “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.”

Even so, our free speech rights often are in peril. Lamentably, some of the most active battlefields in continuing struggle to retain the right of free speech are on college campuses. The political correctness movement has led over the years to restrictive, and quite obviously unconstitutional, speech codes aimed at eliminating speech that offends someone, particularly those deemed to be in protected classes.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (www.thefire.org), for instance, features a “speech code of the month” – last month, the speech code from the University of North Dakota, which is so vague that, as FIRE puts it, “is so vague that students have no way of knowing whether their speech or expression might inadvertently run afoul of the policy.”

While preventing harassment, racism and sexism is an important goal, it’s still constitutionally dubious to outlaw “offending” people.

This is not a mere academic concern. These cases involve real people and their right to free speech. Washington Post columnist George Will recently highlighted one case in which a student-employee at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) was actually rung up for racial harassment for quietly reading a book – one that celebrated the defeat of the Ku Klux Klan at Notre Dame University.

The book in question was said to be available in the school library.

Student Keith John Sampson’s record was ultimately cleared, but not without a titanic public relations and legal battle.

We shouldn’t have to fight so hard for rights enshrined in our Constitution since 1791, but there it is.

Nor is everyone in politics a fan of the First Amendment. U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., was recently quoted as saying, “We need a constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to control the so-called free speech rights of corporations.”

Wow.

Here’s to your “so-called” freedom of speech. Long may it live.

Comments (41) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
KSL
227784
Points
KSL 01/01/13 - 07:26 pm
4
2
Agree Young Fred

I grew up amongst the gentile in the south and if those monsters were lurking below the surface, they were not passing along their beliefs.

Young Fred
27598
Points
Young Fred 01/01/13 - 07:49 pm
5
1
KSL...

Funny ain't it? So many are so quick to label the south.

Reminds me of comedians who trot out the tired line about southerners and their cousins. I'm like, “really, you've no more originality than that; how sad that you're that weak in your craft".

If you can't debate a southerner without playing the race card, you've no business uttering an opinion. Shallow doesn't begin to describe your mentality.

Young Fred
27598
Points
Young Fred 01/01/13 - 08:23 pm
4
1
KSL -thanks for yet another

KSL -thanks for yet another example of an inconvenient truth. One has to wonder how the left reconciles such facts with their beliefs. I guess you can't underestimate the power of selective thinking.

Bizkit
61611
Points
Bizkit 01/01/13 - 10:40 pm
3
0
Really no different than

Really no different than sterotyping all african-americans as poor eating fried chicken and watermelon. Ignoring the success stories and the huge population of affluent wealthy african-americans in Columbia County or Atlanta. There was a study about ten years back examining racism in America and it found less in the South (mainly because of a huge black population and acceptance of intermarriages) than other areas of the country with fewer african-americans which displayed more racism. Seems ignorance is the still the greatest contributor to racism. I understand that Asians in the Augusta area feel racism is more directed at them than hispanics or african-americans.

Young Fred
27598
Points
Young Fred 01/01/13 - 10:43 pm
3
0
Bizkit, I agree. Just under

Bizkit, I agree. Just under 38% of my clientele is of African American descent. If anything they are more sensitive to negative stereotypes within their own race. They've fought long and hard to get where they are and are probably harder on the slackers of their race than most would think.

I learned long ago that no particular race has a monopoly on “sorriness”. If a man or women can look you straight in the eye, make a promise, shake your hand, and deliver, then that's a man or women you want to do business with.

Hard working men and women have little patience with sloth.

KSL
227784
Points
KSL 01/01/13 - 11:15 pm
3
1
YoungFred, in me is the

YoungFred, in me is the innate idea that we are alike....those of us reared in the US.

I am a caseworker. That is not what I do now, but that is what I am.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 01/02/13 - 10:18 am
2
1
Techfan's 8:20 rant is his
Unpublished

Techfan's 8:20 rant is his typical name calling. Why do the liberals so often resort to that instead of debating issues?

Trust Birth Augusta
18
Points
Trust Birth Augusta 01/02/13 - 02:03 pm
0
0
WHY ONLY COLLEGES?

"Colleges do have an obligation to maintain on orderly environment, but the freedom to express controversial opinions in college should be absolute."

Why not high schools and other arenas of learning? Look what TX did with their text books..is that free speech? I see censorship like that so TRUE freedom to learn & express is trumped by textbooks that have only one viewpoint or one idea about religion or creation or science OR history OR "herstory" (which was written out long ago)

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 01/02/13 - 02:14 pm
2
1
"Viewpoints" have no place in
Unpublished

"Viewpoints" have no place in High School text books. What is wrong with teaching FACTS and let the student form his own viewpoint?

Bulldog1
223
Points
Bulldog1 01/03/13 - 12:26 pm
0
0
PC Speech Control

Charleton Heston addressed this very issue in 1999 at Harvard Law School. He said it a lot better than I can.
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/charltonhestonculturalwar.htm

Back to Top
 
loading...
Search Augusta jobs