Concerns over the impact on free speech rights of anti-terrorism legislation pushed through by the Republican Congress has been clearly expressed. But, there is other legislation being discussed by the new Democrat Congress that can only add to these legitimate concerns, because the most basic freedom in a free society is freedom of speech. No other freedom can exist without the right to freely express oneself. Free speech is the throttle of freedom; turn it up, and freedom rings, turn it down and oppression starts.
Over the last six years, many civil rights groups have complained that anti-terrorism legislation, like the Patriot Act and Homeland Security, have turned down the throttle on free speech. And, they are right, to some extent. This dialog is often hysterical, often claiming that the Bush administration is trying to create a dictatorship in the US. As long as shrill letters to the editor continue to be published in great volume, there is probably nothing to worry about, but the price of peace is eternal vigilance, so we need to aware of other new developments affecting free speech rights.
The latest attack on free speech is a bill, HR454, sponsored by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). This biil seeks to expand the so-called hate crimes act, passed in 1994, to add sexual orientation to the list of protected classes, alongside race, religion and gender. Donald E Wildmon, founder and chairman of the American Family Foundation, said that the impact of HR454 would be to “force the acceptance and approval of homosexuality on every American, regardless of their religious views.” If enacted, he says preachers who preach that homosexuality is a sin, could be charged with hate crimes. Boy Scouts would lose the issue they won a few years ago at the Supreme Court, and be forced to hire homosexuals as scout leaders.
The second legislative effort is being proposed by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). In addition to making a serious run at Harold Stassen’s record of failed Presidential nomination efforts, Kucinich is suggesting that the Fairness Doctrine be reinstated. Speaking on the Lou Dobbs Show, he said he is concerned about the right wing domination of talk radio, and wants to force radio stations to offer equal fime for opposing points of view. In a convoluted argument for a “free marketplace of ideas,” Kuchinich said his sub-committee would have hearings on whether the media is serving the public interest. Left wing radio network, Air America filed bankruptcy in 2006, due to a lack of listeners in a free marketplace of ideas. The Kucinich sub-committee would only address radio talk shows, which are dominated by conservative talk shows, because the federal government lacks regulatory power over mainstream newspapers, which are predominately liberal.
Most people will quickly run to the defense of free speech when we feel that the freedom of speech of those we agree with is being compromised. It takes a special dedication to free speech when those we disagree with express themselves. French philosopher Voltaire said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Anything short of this is lip service.
[Edited by Simon - Fixed the links]