Free Markets, Free People

1st Amendment

Since when do you need the permission of the cops to exercise your First Amendment rights?

I’m certainly no fan of David Gregory. I think he is typical of the new breed of “journalist”, more interested in making news than reporting it. But I also think this nonsense about him showing a high capacity magazine on his Sunday show to be just that, nonsense.

Apparently, now we have to go to the police to get permission to show items on television when they are deemed illegal by our authorities, even if the intent is totally benign.

What has this country come to if it is necessary now to clear our speech with the authorities?

NBC was told by the Washington police that it was “not permissible” to show a high-capacity gun magazine on air before Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” according to a statement Wednesday from the cops.

“NBC contacted [the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department] inquiring if they could utilize a high capacity magazine for their segment,” Gwendolyn Crump, a police spokeswoman, said in an email. “NBC was informed that possession of a high capacity magazine is not permissible and their request was denied. This matter is currently being investigated.”

Since when do we need permission from the authorities to exercise our First Amendment rights?   Here we have a perfect example of the law making criminals of otherwise law-abiding citizens. This is the state of our nation. We no longer enjoy the freedoms we once had, and our rights are fast becoming permission granted by government.

As I’m sure you know, that’s not the way it was supposed to work.

~McQ

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 12 Feb 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the controversy over the HHS contraception mandate.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

What part of “freedom of assembly” don’t San Juan Capistrano officials understand?

I swear this country gets more and more totalitarian as the days go by.  Try this one on for size:

An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a “church” and not as a private gathering.

Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.

That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.

The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further “religious gatherings” in their home, according to PJI.

“We’re just gathering and enjoying each other’s company and fellowship. And we enjoy studying God’s word.” Stephanie Fromm told CBS2.

A) What freaking business is it of  the city’s to begin with?

B) It doesn’t matter if they gather every day.  If it is voluntary, in a private home and they’re not disturbing anyone or violating anyone’s rights, what business is it of the city?

C) Where does the city get off requiring permits to gather at a private residence?

D) In case you missed it in A, what freaking business of the city, especially in light of the 1st Amendment guarantee?

Who someone chooses to peacefully assemble – especially in a private home – is none of the damn city’s business.  Does this make the weekly poker game an event that requires permits.  How about the weekly gathering at the neighbor with the big screen tv to watch football?

This is utter nonsense on a extraordinarily intrusive scale.  It isn’t about what they’re doing (bible study, poker, football) but that the city has taken it upon itself to invent some permitting nonsense that puts them in jeopardy legally.

Absurd – but there it is.

You have to wonder what part of this the folks in city government don’t understand:

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.

Seems pretty clear to me.  And yes, I recognize we’re not talking about Congress here, but this is a right that has since been incorporated so that we all have it and government in general is prohibited from violating these rights.

Says the city:

“The Fromm case further involves regular meetings on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons with up to 50 people, with impacts on the residential neighborhood on street access and parking,” City Attorney Omar Sandoval said.

Oh, I see.  That is all it takes to abrogate the 1st Amendment guarantee.  Temporarily impacting “on street access and parking”.  Yup, inconvenience others and you’re guaranteed rights are kaput.  Gone.  Out the window, or to use today’s favorite phrase, under the bus.

Of course the fact that it is an invented excuse only adds to the nature of the folly:

Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.

Or, as one can conclude, it’s a naked show of power by the city to exert control in something they have no freaking business being involved.

The little totalitarians are as dangerous as the big ones.  It is from the little ones – who are able to get away with this sort of nonsense – that the big one’s grow.  We need to stomp them out (metaphorically speaking) when they’re small.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Hate Crime Bill To Pass In Defense Authorization?

Stuffed in the National Defense Authorization Act is something which has absolutely nothing to do with defense, but is a law that “progressives” have desired to have on the books for a long time.  Named the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, its purpose is to make crimes against certain groups punishable by harsher sentencing if it is determined the crime was driven by “hate”.

Since the votes weren’t present in the Senate on a stand-alone basis, Senate Democrats have attached it to the defense authorization bill as an amendment.

The crime bill — which would broaden the protected classes for hate crimes to include sexual orientation and “gender identity,” which the bill defines as a victim’s “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics” — passed the House earlier this year as a stand-alone measure.

Republicans object to the law on First Amendment grounds:

Beyond that, GOP lawmakers feared the new bill could infringe on First Amendment rights in the name of preventing broadly defined hate crimes. The bill’s critics, including many civil libertarians, argued that the hate crimes provision could chill freedom of speech by empowering federal authorities to accuse people of inciting hate crimes, even if the speech in question was not specifically related to a crime.

My objection, as usual, is that the GOP has accepted the premise of “hate crime laws” as being legitmate and are only arguing about the final form. The crime of murder, in terms of a result for the victim, isn’t any worse if it was driven by hate or not. In fact, it could be argued that murder, for any reason, is essentially a hate crime.

The reason for the crime is hardly the most relevant point. The result is what we can concretely and objectively judge and punish. The job of law enforcement is to ensure that a murderer is brought to justice by connecting him or her irrefutably to the crime. Other than that, I see little relevance in whether it was done because the person didn’t like gays or because the person wanted to get rid of their spouse. Murder is murder.

Another thing that bothers me is the title – The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This isn’t about just punishing what is deemed a hate crime, by whatever arbitrary definition they choose to define a hate crime, but instead “preventing” those crimes.

That means, as the GOP points out, monitoring and doing something about what is deemed “hate speech” because the only way to “prevent” a “hate crime” is to prevent (or stop) the speech which government decides might incite people to take action. No speech, no incitement. No incitement, no crime.

Now, it is important to note that we already have an exception to the 1st Amendment’s ban on punishing speech and that’s the “fighting words” exception.  It essentially says words can incite undesirable and even criminal action and those words aren’t protected speech. What is being proposed here is an expansion of the meaning of “fighting words” to include words that Congress decides incites “hate” and then criminal behavior (thus the term “hate crime”).

Unfortunately the bill looks like it will be signed into law. The question, of course, is how broad the final bill will be and how badly it attacks our First Amendment rights.

Republican Sam Brownback offered an amendment to the Senate version which said the bill could not “construed or applied in a manner that infringes on any rights under the First Amendment” and could not place any burden on the exercise of First Amendment rights “if such exercise of religion, speech, expression, or association was not intended to plan or prepare for an act of physical violence or incite an imminent act of physical violence against another.”

With that amendment, GOP Senators supported the final bill. However when the bill went to the conference committee, key changes were made to the Brownback amendment by the Democrat controlled committee:

Where Brownback had insisted, and the full Senate had agreed, that the bill could not burden the exercise of First Amendment rights, the conference changed the wording to read that the bill could not burden the exercise of First Amendment rights “unless the government demonstrates … a compelling governmental interest” to do otherwise.

That means your First Amendment rights are protected — unless they’re not.

“A compelling governmental interest” leaves the door wide open for your free speech rights to be trampled on the government’s whim. Where the First Amendment was designed as a limit on government power (as was the entire Constitution), this law is a blatant attack on those limits and an attempt to expand government power. Additionally, instead of an objective standard by which to judge a crime, this attempts to identify and punish thought.

In terms of our civil liberties it is an incredibly dangerous and precedent setting move that will enable government – as long as it can “demonstrate a “compelling … interest” (which it will define) – to restrict or punish speech it chooses to categorize as “hate speech”.

Obama has said he’ll sign the bill when ready. With Obama’s recent LBGT troubles, this is a bone he can throw their way.

“I will sign it into law,” the president told a cheering crowd at the gay activist group Human Rights Campaign on Saturday. “Together we will have moved closer to that day when no one has to be afraid to be gay in America.”

The GOP finds itself in a no-win position. They can vote against the hate crimes part of the bill and be accused by Democrats of not supporting the troops, or they can vote for the Defense Authorization Act and the hate crimes portion becomes law.

I think we all know they’ll vote to authorize the defense spending. And with that vote, America will become a little less free as Democrats continue on pace to erode our liberties while they have the chance.

~McQ

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1st Amendment – Void Under Capital Dome?

Apparently lawmakers are now required to submit any language they plan sending out to constituents through the Democrats who sit on the Franking Commission.

It seems the term “government run healthcare” rankles the Dems.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), the secretary of the House Republican Conference and a former District Court Judge, is having his messages to constituents censored by Democrats on the Franking Commission. Republicans are no longer allowed to use the words “government run health care” in the communications to their constituents.

Carter received an email from the Franking Commission informing him of the censorship.

“It came to me from the Franking Commission and I have the email from the Franking Commission here if you’d like to see it,” Carter said. “We held a telephone town-hall… When you hold telephone town-halls you have a recorded message that introduces the town-hall and the subject matter you’re going to be talking about. You have to now submit that language to the Franking Commission.

Now wait – “franking” is postage. I.e. each Congressional member is given franking privileges (which essentially means his or her signature is all that’s needed to send mail) and able to send constituent mail without postage (although the USPS does get reimbursed for delivering it). Here’s how it is described in a quick search I did:

A six-member bipartisan Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards, colloquially known as the “Franking Commission,” is responsible for oversight and regulation of the franking privilege in the Congress. Among the Commission’s responsibilities is to establish the “Official Mail Allowance” for each Member based proportionally on the number of constituents they serve.

How that evolved into something which has a say on telephone town-halls is a bit mystifying to me but a good example of the mission creep for which bureaucracies are famous (take heed all of you wanting government run healthcare).  Now I’m not here to defend franking privileges, but unlike John McCain, I am an  ardent supporter of the 1st Amendment.

Continuing with the story, Rep. Carter says:

“What we proposed as language was as follows, ‘House Democrats unveiled a government-run health care plan,’” Carter said. “Our response from Franking was, ‘You cannot use that language. You must use, ‘The House majority unveiled a public option health care plan,’ which is Pelosi-speak or ‘just last week the House majority unveiled a health care plan which I believe will cost taxpayers…’”

“I would submit to you this is a free speech issue, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States,” Carter said.

Yeah, something about free political speech as I recall.

It is also a great example of why the Constitution doesn’t stand a chance in the face of partisan politics any more.

Let freedom ring!

~McQ