Written By: Reverend Anton Sawyer
The Democratic party has had a very interesting (read: strained) relationship with the First Amendment; specifically regarding freedom of speech. In my lifetime I have seen them do their best to censor song lyrics from heavy metal bands in the 80s, to then being a champion of freedom when conservatives were going after rap music in the 90s. Though these decades were certainly fertile ground for confusion as to what their overall plan was, in the 21st century the Democratic National Committee has finally locked in on an ideology: the side effects of living in a nation that applauds free speech are intolerable and speech MUST BE LIMITED. Not only is the championing of these limitations permeating the upper echelons of the party, but it has trickled down through the halls of academia.
Before going too in-depth, it’s imperative I give the foundation from which every assertion I make stems from when it comes to freedom of speech. As an American citizen, I view the Constitution as our rulebook. That whatever is written in it, is a code of rules that we have all agreed to play by if we live in the US. It’s important to note that this stance doesn’t mean I agree with everything written in it. But keep in mind, that by calling it a “rulebook,” I mean as written, only. It’s key to note there is a distinct difference between what’s written in the constitution, and the way it has been interpreted throughout the centuries—especially by the Supreme Court. As we have seen via various SCOTUS rulings during the 21st century, personal morals and ideologies can allow for the distortion of any historical documents toward a specific, desired outcome.
In an attempt to maintain complete transparency, all research and statistical fact-checking for all articles can be found in the bibliography linked here.
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Freedom of speech is protected—no matter how vile. Using examples like “you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a theatre” as a way to illustrate that there are limits to free speech ... I’m sorry but you are wrong. Whalen law offices put together an incredibly succinct report about the case on which this myth is built: Schenk vs. the United States. The report said, “the other bizarre thing about why this quote gets attributed to why it’s okay to limit free speech is the Schenck case [itself], which has now actually been overturned and has been for 60 years. [The case] actually stood for the exact opposite. The Schenck case was applying a pretty large degree of censorship on free speech. That’s why it was overturned is because it was actually found to be completely contrary toward what the First Amendment stood for.” The ONLY limited speech found currently in the US is that which will directly incite a riot—though it seems there may be special exceptions to ex-Presidents.
Keeping all of this in your frontal lobe, if you fundamentally disagree with this notion of unbridled speech, then you currently have two options. The first is that you can move to Canada where certain types of speech are limited; this is an option I respect. I’m not one of those “love it or leave it” types. Having resided in numerous states in my life, I know how difficult it is to uproot everything and start in a strange land completely anew. In reality, it’s the gutsiest of options. The second option currently available in dealing with opposition to any of the contents in the constitution is to elect enough representatives and senators to allow for a constitutional convention—a complete overhaul. However, this second option is much less likely given how it would completely upend the 200-plus years of American traditions and there are zero politicians in America who would be willing to destroy their careers in such a fashion.
Now, with the foundations laid, how are the Democrats trying to decimate the freedom of speech?
College campuses have always been seen as a bastion of liberal thought. This isn’t all that surprising given that in 2016, per Pew Research, among the post-grad set, more than half of Democrats and Democratic-leaning are "consistently liberal," with college graduates at 47%. These numbers have not changed much since then, with President Biden having won about 60% of college-educated voters in 2020.
And wherever the head goes, the body is sure to follow … especially the heart.
Yes, there have been many college campuses throughout history that have stuck their necks out to teach that as a society, we have an obligation to help those that are the most marginalized. From the campus demonstrations dotting the nation in the 1960s for civil rights until the late 20th century, at their core, college protests were about the addition of rights for people. One of the cornerstones of these political displays has been that rights were to be added, but not at the expense of other constitutional rights. During the 21st century, things have changed. The fabric of teaching that was once mostly comprised of learning the facts and specific laws that showed irrefutable proof of how the deck was stacked against the lower classes of America, has now become a four-year pulpit of political preparation. The numbers speak for themselves.
In 2017, motivated by concerns about the “narrowing window of permissible topics” for discussion on campuses, John Villasenor (a Brookings Institution senior fellow and University of California at Los Angeles professor) conducted a nationwide survey of 1,500 undergraduate students at four-year colleges. Many of Villasenor's questions were designed to gauge students' understanding of the First Amendment. The results were clear—most college students have a very flawed understanding of what the First Amendment protects. When students were asked whether the First Amendment protects “hate speech,” four in ten said no. When students were asked whether the First Amendment requires that an offensive speaker at a public university be matched with one with an opposing view, six in ten said that, yes, the First Amendment requires balance. None of the questions or results show an accurate depiction of how the First Amendment works at all.
Yet, the most chilling findings involved how students think repugnant speech should be dealt with. Let’s say a public university hosts a “very controversial speaker,” one “known for making offensive and hurtful statements.” Would it be acceptable for a student group to disrupt the speech “by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker”? Astonishingly, half said that snuffing out upsetting speech—rather than, presumably, rebutting or even ignoring it—would be appropriate. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to find this response acceptable (62% to 39%). Saving the worst for last, the study also found that 19% said it was acceptable for a student group to use violence to prevent that same controversial speaker from talking, with the Democrats leading the charge.
It was only a matter of time before these attitudes would eventually spill over into action.
In 2018, Shawnee State University officials punished a philosophy professor, Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, because he declined a male student’s demand to be referred to as a woman with feminine titles and pronouns. Although Dr. Meriwether offered to use the student’s preferred first or last name instead. Initially, the University accepted that compromise, only to reverse course days later. Ultimately, it punished him by putting a written warning in his personnel file and threatened “further corrective actions” unless he acquiesced to the demands.
In November 2018, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on Dr. Meriwether’s behalf. Initially, a federal judge dismissed the case, but the decision was appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. In March 2021, the 6th Circuit ruled in Meriwether's favor, upholding Dr. Meriwether’s First Amendment rights. The 6th Circuit explained that if “professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity." The lawsuit also led to Meriwether receiving a $400K settlement from the University.
Yes, being an asshole is still protected under the First Amendment. However, listening to the leader of the DNC, Nancy Pelosi, it’s easy to see where the rest of the party could fall astray when it comes to their distorted ideals/teachings/understandings when it comes to what free speech actually involves.
Shortly after the 2022 supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York, Speaker of the House Pelosi made a statement reiterating the concept of free speech in these kinds of tragedies; there should be a limit. Speaking to George Stephanopolous on "ABC This Week" she said, "Obviously you have to balance the free speech issues," Pelosi said. "Freedom is so important to us but that freedom also carries public safety with it and we have to balance that."
In other words, it’s OK to violate some rights in the name of safety? Jesus, this has too many “Patriot Act vibes” attached—relinquishing certain freedoms for security has always worked out well, hasn’t it?
Thankfully we have states like New York, which, in 2022 has put forth legislation in which people seeking to carry concealed handguns will be required to hand over their social media accounts for a review of their “character and conduct.” Given the amount of mass/school shootings we have seen where the murderer has left a bread crumb trail on their socials of what they are planning, all while the FBI can’t do anything about it, it seems like a smart idea that doesn’t trample anything in the US constitution. Apparently, Pelosi and other liberal leaders haven’t learned the overwhelming benefits of creativity.
There are other examples I could cull from when it comes to the myriad of ways the Democratic party has attempted to hurt one of our nation’s cornerstones when it comes to American rights, but I won’t. It would be beating a dead horse; it’s all numbers and statistics. On a personal level, there is one thing that is important and you need to keep in mind: I’m not an overly patriotic guy that bleeds red, white, and blue. Nevertheless, I like to be able to say and think what I want, when I want. Are there potential consequences to doing such a thing? Of course. But having been raised in a religiously controlled state, I know what it feels like when your ideas are “unpopular” and have experienced the absurd levels other people will go to in trying to suppress those words via social or economic pressures. The amount of damage that can occur to your home, family, or business by making the wrong statement at the wrong time in the wrong forum from those with power who gatekeep speech is breathtaking. It’s bad enough that it actively happens in Utah, it doesn’t need to happen anywhere else.
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