There has been a number of stories lately that address the issue of free speech. Many of these stories should cause people to wake up and realize that our First Amendment is under attack.
- The Ground Zero Mosque debate - People have a right to complain about efforts to build any mosque, church, McDonald's, etc., etc. The fact that this Mosque has the not-so-hidden intent to be a symbol of supremacy over the hallowed grounds of Ground Zero is patently offensive (i.e., why else would it be called the Cordoba House). However, in America, people also have a right to locate where they want to as long as they are acting legally and are within zoning laws. To date, there has been no proof of illegal activity; although there is certainly enough to be suspicious of their motives. But in America, people are considered innocent until proven guilty - until and unless due process identifies a crime associated with their efforts, they have a right to build anywhere that zoning allows. But, this is not an insignificant caveat. Given the fact that Ground Zero is the site of a horrific religious attack, it seems to me that it would be entirely appropriate to place a zoning ban of perhaps a 1 mile radius around Ground Zero against any new religious buildings.
- The Koran burning in Florida - Once again, people have the right to speak out. There is also a long precedence that this includes actions, including burning things (i.e., including the American flag). Thus, while this act is extremely offensive and I oppose it in every way; it is the right of the people to take part in this if they so wish. It does not matter if it puts our troops at risk or if it calls rioting in other parts of the world or locally. The rioters are violating the law - the people speaking their minds have an inalienable right to speak their minds. Our troops have the responsibility to protect our rights, including free speech, so that we can have true freedom. If we allow rioters across the world to silence us, how long will it be before local groups resort to violence to silence others? That is a path that leads to absolute destruction of our society - yet what should frighten us all is that Justice Stephen Breyer seems to think that such actions should be banned. What ever happened to Supreme Court Justices not declaring their positions on cases prior to hearing the facts - let alone to actually defending the Constitution?
- The Koran burning by the New Jersey Transit employee - What is even worse is the action by the NJ Transit agency of firing one of their employees for burning the Koran. Once again, the Koran burning is absolutely counter-productive and offensive - YET, it is an individual's right to undertake such actions and to be offensive. It is everyone else's right to be offended and to speak out. But the government does not have the right to punish a citizen for exercising his rights. This sets a horrendous precedent for the government to take actions on other more serious issues.
And such an issue is upon us. Kathleen Sebelius has warned health insurance companies that they should not blame the government for premium increases and that "there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases." That is a direct threat against free speech for the specific purpose of obtaining a political objective. Ms. Sebelius should be let go for issuing such a statement; unfortunately, it does not appear that will happen - meaning Obama himself must accept personal responsibility for this attack on individual liberty.
The First Amendment was not designed to protect speech that everyone liked; it was designed explicitly to allow people to express opinions that are likely to offended others. It is time that America wakes up and demands that the government protects our rights.