1st Amendment Protections – Political Speech and Assumed Morality

Posted: August 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’ve not written a blog entry in some time. Part due to business, part due to blogging lethargy, part to SC political madness, but mostly because of an ongoing, abhorrent socio-philosophical debate. I’ve forced myself to avoid blogging on this ridiculous Chic-Fil-A debacle for some time. And I’m glad I did. With that being said, I am happy to calmly address the free speech debate that has reared its head yet again. (And please people, before commenting or judging, READ my points – too often people assume before giving thought).

Too often over time “advocating for First Amendment rights” has been cited as the reasoning behind why the everyday man supports the commentary of hate or the commentary of love. To the former, see the KKK, see neo-Nazis, see talk at the neighborhood store in the 1940′s saying “I personally have no problem with black people, but Johnny has a right to his opinion, so I stand by him,” and so on, and so forth. To the latter, see the belief in speaking of loving all people as is outlined by religious faith. This tale is one rooted in history.

A recent blog post by Columbia blogger Brad Warthen, “1st Amendment meant to protect POLITICAL speech,” outlines the argument that the writers of the 1st Amendment so proceeded with the law in order to protect political speech, but not immoral speech – that a line can be drawn as to the protection of free speech when it is immoral (such as is the case when Columbia City Council banned a pornographic sex toy shop from opening last fall and earlier this year). In his missive, Mr. Warthen does not come down one way or the other in support or against the Chic-Fil-A hoopla; rather, his point is that the argument from many liberals asking why these conservative free speech protectors aren’t also rallying in support of said sex shop’s free speech, is an incorrect argument…because in this case the sex-shop is immoral.

Now Mr. Warthen makes effort to not so bluntly make the case that I just boiled down to the final sentence of the above paragraph, but feel free to read the post (at the link above) and be a judge for yourself. I read it that way. And I responded on his blog with the below statement:

 I do agree that “freedom of speech” should be limited in certain situations, but do not agree with your labeling of the parameters defining those situations. First, your note that you belief that Founders meant political speech is by your own admission an utter assumption with no pen to pad in the Constitution. Anyone can write an interpretive missive on Constitutional insinuation but that doesn’t make it anything more than an assumption.

Second, even if your assumption were the case, I disagree that freedom of political speech – but not “immoral” speech – is in any way descriptive enough or all-encompassing of our speech freedoms by writ. See: religious, spiritual, philosophical, and, yes, moral speech being freedoms we certainly have. Your code of conduct, of morality, is perhaps rooted in the organized religious underpinnings of our society that define most of our beliefs to date. Who named you the judge of what’s immoral and not? My point is that to assume political speech is fair game but immoral speech is not, as so judged by consensus in the heart of the Bible Belt, is both counter-logical and moot to the larger point: what’s believed to be true, whether true or not, is real in its consequences. That, most certainly, is the case with this fast food frenzy.

I agree Chic-Fil-A has a right to its opinion. I disagree that the mass upheaval of free-speechers coming to its side actually find spar with its free speech being at risk as the root of their issue. Rather, they just like their chicken more than they care about gay rights. After all, most of them surely found fault with the protesters at Westwood Baptist who were exercising their right to free speech. See what I just did there? I made an assumption, too, by applying the moral argument.

My final paragraph in that post was to set up a point. Whether you fall on Chic-Fil-A’s side or on that of gay rights advocates, there is no doubt that any plausible defense of morality is indeed based on one’s own moral vocabulary. No one man – even writers of the Constitution – gets to be the judge of what that entails (that is, kinda, what the law allows for). That’s why I could have the personal freedom to be a non-Christian and be friends with a Christian, and yet we could both still talk about it freely. It just so happens that beliefs not rooted in a belief system so engrained in Christianity or “traditional” morals, for example, could enable someone to actually find it immoral to be against sex shops…or against gay marriage.

Now how about that logic? While not true personally, I’m making a point. By applying Mr. Wharten’s same logic, only its counter, now advocating for Chic-Fil-A and not against the sex shop means you’re breaking the law: being against gay rights (immoral), being for pornography (moral).

Guess what people – beliefs are unto each individual. The only thing we’re left with is repeating my centerpiece to Mr. Warthen’s blog: what’s believed to be true, whether true or not, is real in its consequences. Think about it, and find out which side of social consequences you want to support.

/BW

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