Tag Archives: First Amendment

Unintended Consequences

The law of unintended consequences says that when we do something, results that were never contemplated often occur. This apparently applies even in Oklahoma. This monument was placed on the capitol grounds of Oklahoma City:

ten-monument

This is clearly a religious symbol. Does it establish a religion or prevent the free exercise thereof? If no other religion is allowed to put up monuments to their own doctrines or deities, the former looks to be the case. And so, the Satanic Temple has sought permission to add this:

satanist-monument

to the same grounds. And good for them. In fact, a look at their beliefs shows the Satanic Temple to be a lot more rational than some groups I could name. Regardless of the theology, if one religion is allowed on state property, all must be allowed. Otherwise, the favored religion is established as the official belief of that state.

And that’s the point. Here in America, we have religious freedom and a long tradition of refraining from making any one faith the state religion. Perhaps as a result, we have rates of belief that are the highest in the First World. Our religions don’t require the support of government to thrive. But if the government starts picking favorite religions, our freedom to choose what we will believe and practice becomes constrained.

The better thing for the State of Oklahoma would have been to keep the capitol grounds a secular zone. But having decided to allow religious monuments, the state must permit everyone. And so this Satanist image is a welcome corrective.

Crossposted at English 301: Reading and Writing.

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First or Second?

The Huffington Post continues its several-weeks-long rant against gun rights today in an article titled, “Protecting Second Amendment While Trampling the First.” The author, one Ken Toltz, claims that those of us who defend gun rights are violating the free speech and free press rights of those who are against us.

Areopagitica_bridwell

His argument is that we gun-rights supporters have been too loud in our opposition to gun control. He reminds us that Dick Metcalf, once of Guns & Ammo was let go because he pushed gun restrictions in an editorial, and he brings up the open carry protest that was organized outside a restaurant that some Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America whiners were visiting.

Really? That’s all?

Metcalf wrote an article in a magazine devoted to guns and gun owners. Should it come as a surprise to him that the readers didn’t appreciate his support for gun control? But in what way has he been prevented from expressing his opinion? His story has been told by the news media again and again, and he remains free to speak his mind on blogs, in magazines that will have him, and anywhere else that he cares to speak. All that he was denied is the one outlet where his views don’t match the readership.

Regarding the Moms for Gun Bans, if you can’t stand a counterprotest, too bad. The attitude of gun control freaks, one that I have observed repeatedly in debates with them, is that anyone who disagrees with their position is either too stupid for consideration or a bully. It’s the same kind of thing that gets stereotyped in movies about Southern mamas. Whenever someone says something that mama doesn’t like, she gasps and faints. Fortunately, we do not live in that matriarchal tyranny any more. Moms have to provide the same facts and logic that everyone else must offer to win a debate.

But the strangest claim of all of Toltz’s screed is that gun-rights supporters are shutting down the debate. Seriously? Has the media been silent about gun control? Have gun control blogs disappeared? Has The Huffington Post been prevented from advocacy? A short survey will show you that the answer to these questions is no.

Over the years of writing this weblog, I’ve declared my love of both the right of free expression and free speech and of gun rights. I find it bizarre for someone to use one right to call for the violation of another, but that’s what you must be able to do in a free society.

And that’s the limit of what you should be able to do. When it comes to making laws that violate the rights of others, talk is all you have a right to. We who support gun rights will talk. Some of us, myself included, more than others. But action, when it is correct, defends rights.

Have Your Cake and Speak It, Too

There’s a case out of Colorado that has the left and the right of our political spectrum in a stew. A bakery near Denver, one Masterpiece Cakeshop, refuses to sell wedding cakes to gay couples. Administrative law judge Robert Spencer says that the business will be fined if it continues this policy.

Royal_Wedding_Cake

Regular readers of this weblog know that I am a supporter of equal rights for all, straight, gay, or in between. I see it as necessary for our society to give official recognition to the marriages of gay or lesbian couples. But there is more here that just one set of rights.

The owner of the bakery believes that gay marriage is wrong. He sees it as going against his Christian beliefs. So be it, and I don’t feel qualified to comment on that. But he is in a creative business. His cakes are his speech, in the same way that a musical composition, a photograph, or a sculpture is speech, as we understand the concept today. To require him to bake a cake in celebration of something he disapproves of is to force speech.

If Masterpiece Cakeshop sold oil changes, there would be no question here. It should change the oil of anyone who can afford that service. If the bakery sells pre-made cakes, those should be offered to anyone who has the money. But if the business is using the creative skill of its employees to make products to suit its customers, it has to be free to do that in whatever manner those creators see as right. When the business and the customer can’t come to an agreement in that situation, the two must be free to part company and seek others.

A Sacred Document of a Sacred Idea

Take a look at this document:

constitution_1_of_4_630

This is the Constitution of the United States of America. I get into tangles all the time over at Mikeb302000 about the nature of this document. Mikeb loves to point to the elements that offend the modern leftist–slavery and the Second Amendment being the predominate targets. By contrast, I see our constitution as sacred.

Understand that by sacred, I don’t mean perfect or beyond change. I have discussed here, for example, how I wish the first two amendments were written and what I see as circumstances that would justify overthrowing the constitutionally legitimate government. Certainly, the document itself has provisions for amendment, showing a recognition from the start that changes might be necessary as time went by.

That being said, there are fundamental principles of our constitution that should not be changed. It establishes a nation and defines the government that will regulate that nation, and that definition sets strict limits on what powers each branch of the government may have. It divides government into three branches to place further limits on the extent of that power. The first ten amendments enumerate rights that the Founders regarded as necessary to protect by name.

But the argument gets made that we don’t really need such protection anymore. Surely a modern, democratic society can maintain rights by the consensus of the people.

Think again. An example of the dangers of that point of view came up yesterday (20 August 2013) in an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered with Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of The Guardian. I’ve given a link to the full story, but I’m going to point out one significant statement that Rusbridger made:

And this may be – sound strange to American listeners, but there is no First Amendment in the U.K. and there is no bar on prior restraint, the idea that the state could prevent a news organization from publishing by taking back its source material.

Caught it, yes? Without the First Amendment, there is nothing in Britain to prevent the government from blocking publication of a story.

What story are we talking about? The one reported by Glenn Greenwald of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing about the American NSA’s invasions of privacy. The British government also detained Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, under powers given by terrorism legislation. This is one of those coincidences that those of us who enjoy language note, since it was another Miranda who caused a limitation of police power in the United States.

There are people who claim that all of this security theater is keeping us safe, who see what has happened in Britain as a model for what should be done here. To them, we are nowhere near tyranny, so we should just shut up and trust the government. (I’m talking to you, Mr. President.) That kind of sheepish attitude is unbecoming for people who have overthrown a government that was not respecting their rights, fought a civil war to defend rights, and who claim to love liberty today. The only way to guarantee that we don’t fall into the kind of police state that some of us warn about is to fight against every step in that direction.