Americans feel less free

Maggie Gallagher tells about a study showing that Americans feel less free to express themselves, less than they did in the McCarthy era of the allegedly conformist 1950′s. In 1954, 13% of Americans feared expressing themselves openly. Now, 24%–nearly a fourth–do not feel free to say what is on their minds. Is this due to the supposed erosion of civil liberties after 9/11? No. The culprit appears to be the “politically-correct” speech codes of the left.

The groups that feel most restricted are “fundamentalists” and those who oppose abortion. And they are right to feel that way. The study found that 39% of Americans would support a government ban against religious fundamentalists holding “public rallies and demonstrations in your community to advance their cause.”

Gallagher quotes the author of the study: “More than one-half of these mainstream groups believe they cannot exercise full political freedom in the United States today,” Mr. Gibson writes. “It is also noteworthy that the respondents least likely to perceive repression are those sympathetic toward gay rights activists and atheists.”

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://bluegrasslutheran.blogspot.com Christopher Jackson

    My college days are not far behind me — I graduated in December ’01.

    I remember in those times getting to the point where I simply became quietist about many of my views, which are somewhat conservative. At theology classes in this Christian school, I found myself being labeled “homophobic” for believing that homosexuality is not God pleasing. I was called narrow minded for believing in the exclusivity of the Christian faith. I was called a sexist, and people warned my girlfriend (who is now my wife) that I would be a dominating and cruel husband, because I have a complementarian view of sexuality. And, because people knew I was conservative, I was called a racist, though I do not ever remember speaking out on any race issues like affirmative action.

    Perhaps I should have not been so deterred by these ad hominem attacks, as petty as they were and are. However, I can testify that at that time I felt very reluctant to freely express my views.

  • http://bluegrasslutheran.blogspot.com Christopher Jackson

    My college days are not far behind me — I graduated in December ’01.

    I remember in those times getting to the point where I simply became quietist about many of my views, which are somewhat conservative. At theology classes in this Christian school, I found myself being labeled “homophobic” for believing that homosexuality is not God pleasing. I was called narrow minded for believing in the exclusivity of the Christian faith. I was called a sexist, and people warned my girlfriend (who is now my wife) that I would be a dominating and cruel husband, because I have a complementarian view of sexuality. And, because people knew I was conservative, I was called a racist, though I do not ever remember speaking out on any race issues like affirmative action.

    Perhaps I should have not been so deterred by these ad hominem attacks, as petty as they were and are. However, I can testify that at that time I felt very reluctant to freely express my views.

  • Matt L

    Americans saying they feel “less free” is like a fat kid at a supermarket complaining that he’s hungry. Then again I find the American concept of “freedom” to be a rather silly pipedream.

  • Matt L

    Americans saying they feel “less free” is like a fat kid at a supermarket complaining that he’s hungry. Then again I find the American concept of “freedom” to be a rather silly pipedream.

  • Andy

    “Supposed erosion” – Sorry I am as far right as you can get, but after reading the Patriot Act , The Military Commissions Act, etc, etc. there is a definite erosion, even if we have not felt it yet.

  • Andy

    “Supposed erosion” – Sorry I am as far right as you can get, but after reading the Patriot Act , The Military Commissions Act, etc, etc. there is a definite erosion, even if we have not felt it yet.

  • http://www.HempelStudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I feel like I had to “come out” as a conservative at a recent Food Discussion group. I mean, only liberals care about good food and the quality of life for farmers, right?

    I am usually a very outspoken person, but when I worked at a local small college I kept quiet during lunch time when I was with many professors. (On the other hand, I felt pretty fiesty with my department chair who was a flaming liberal who liked to antagonize me.)

  • http://www.HempelStudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I feel like I had to “come out” as a conservative at a recent Food Discussion group. I mean, only liberals care about good food and the quality of life for farmers, right?

    I am usually a very outspoken person, but when I worked at a local small college I kept quiet during lunch time when I was with many professors. (On the other hand, I felt pretty fiesty with my department chair who was a flaming liberal who liked to antagonize me.)

  • Bror Erickson

    I guess I would feel less free to speak my mind if I actually wanted the people I disagreed with to like me. But I would rather make them think then like me. I have never been one to think everyone in the room had to agree with me before I was going to open my mouth. I have never been thrown in jail for expressing myself, though I have been thrown out of jail for expressing myself.

  • Bror Erickson

    I guess I would feel less free to speak my mind if I actually wanted the people I disagreed with to like me. But I would rather make them think then like me. I have never been one to think everyone in the room had to agree with me before I was going to open my mouth. I have never been thrown in jail for expressing myself, though I have been thrown out of jail for expressing myself.

  • Joe

    I think the pressures are more social than authoritative, except on collage compuses where students are actually charged with violations of speach codes.

  • Joe

    I think the pressures are more social than authoritative, except on collage compuses where students are actually charged with violations of speach codes.

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    “Americans saying they feel ‘less free’ is like a fat kid at a supermarket complaining that he’s hungry. Then again I find the American concept of “freedom” to be a rather silly pipedream.”

    A fat American kid is sent to supermarket with a shopping list. On the list are meat, vegetables, bread, fruit, butter, eggs, peanut butter, jelly, and ice cream. Filling his cart, he finishes at the dairy case, where there is no ice cream. The grocer tells him that ice cream has been banned, so he goes home without it.

    The next week, he goes to the store with another list. This time, he is informed that eggs and cheese are now banned. So he fills his cart with the remaining items listed and goes home.

    Week after week he goes back to the store, and each time his choices dwindle. Finally, the store is stocking only bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Fortunately, all are in abundant supply and they do have a wide variety of jellies. With a special permit, he can buy a carton of milk to go with it.

    So our fat kid goes home and eats his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and laments the fact that his diet lacks the variety he once enjoyed. He longs for the freedom he once had to purchase his choice of foods. A visitor from another country where they only have bread and peanut butter, one variety of jelly, and no milk, says . . .

    “Americans saying they have ‘fewer choices at the grocery store’ is like a fat kid at a supermarket complaining that he’s hungry. Then again I find the American concept of ‘a balanced and varied diet’ to be a rather silly pipedream.”

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    “Americans saying they feel ‘less free’ is like a fat kid at a supermarket complaining that he’s hungry. Then again I find the American concept of “freedom” to be a rather silly pipedream.”

    A fat American kid is sent to supermarket with a shopping list. On the list are meat, vegetables, bread, fruit, butter, eggs, peanut butter, jelly, and ice cream. Filling his cart, he finishes at the dairy case, where there is no ice cream. The grocer tells him that ice cream has been banned, so he goes home without it.

    The next week, he goes to the store with another list. This time, he is informed that eggs and cheese are now banned. So he fills his cart with the remaining items listed and goes home.

    Week after week he goes back to the store, and each time his choices dwindle. Finally, the store is stocking only bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Fortunately, all are in abundant supply and they do have a wide variety of jellies. With a special permit, he can buy a carton of milk to go with it.

    So our fat kid goes home and eats his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and laments the fact that his diet lacks the variety he once enjoyed. He longs for the freedom he once had to purchase his choice of foods. A visitor from another country where they only have bread and peanut butter, one variety of jelly, and no milk, says . . .

    “Americans saying they have ‘fewer choices at the grocery store’ is like a fat kid at a supermarket complaining that he’s hungry. Then again I find the American concept of ‘a balanced and varied diet’ to be a rather silly pipedream.”

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    When I taught a course a couple of years ago, I found that the students seemed to censor themselves to a much greater degree than they did when I was a student. What was odd was that at a conservative Christian college, they felt the need to sound politically correct to a degree that didn’t used to be true at a secular university. I don’t have the sense that they imagined their school was going to persecute them. These seemed more like ingrained habits learned elsewhere.

    I agree with Andy, though. Threats from the right are very real, too. Judge Andrew Napolitano has done some good work in making those threats better known.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    When I taught a course a couple of years ago, I found that the students seemed to censor themselves to a much greater degree than they did when I was a student. What was odd was that at a conservative Christian college, they felt the need to sound politically correct to a degree that didn’t used to be true at a secular university. I don’t have the sense that they imagined their school was going to persecute them. These seemed more like ingrained habits learned elsewhere.

    I agree with Andy, though. Threats from the right are very real, too. Judge Andrew Napolitano has done some good work in making those threats better known.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    I wonder to what degree an eroding ability to clearly articulate ideas (engendered by those American habits of television watching, video-game playing, and reading habits centered around more shallow subjects, less interesting vocabulary, and shorter sentences)( Unlike this honker I’m writing now.) plays into a “sense” of less freedom of expression? Heck, I don’t wonder about it at all! I’m SURE of it.

    There is also this phenomenon that seems to recur: as new, controversial social ideas are publicly put forward, conservatives tend to fall behind the curve in finding ways to articulately argue against them for a period of time. There is a lag between widespread social change and a solid evaluation of whether the change is “good” in the long run. As more and more social changes are put on the table, it becomes confusing and overwhelming for people of any value set to feel comfortable speaking of them.

    My main point is that “feeling free” to express oneself is more complex than simply a perception that others will condemn what one says. HOW one expresses oneself, and the timing of it, and the context, all play into how it is received. We are not a land of rhetoriticians.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    I wonder to what degree an eroding ability to clearly articulate ideas (engendered by those American habits of television watching, video-game playing, and reading habits centered around more shallow subjects, less interesting vocabulary, and shorter sentences)( Unlike this honker I’m writing now.) plays into a “sense” of less freedom of expression? Heck, I don’t wonder about it at all! I’m SURE of it.

    There is also this phenomenon that seems to recur: as new, controversial social ideas are publicly put forward, conservatives tend to fall behind the curve in finding ways to articulately argue against them for a period of time. There is a lag between widespread social change and a solid evaluation of whether the change is “good” in the long run. As more and more social changes are put on the table, it becomes confusing and overwhelming for people of any value set to feel comfortable speaking of them.

    My main point is that “feeling free” to express oneself is more complex than simply a perception that others will condemn what one says. HOW one expresses oneself, and the timing of it, and the context, all play into how it is received. We are not a land of rhetoriticians.

  • Don S

    If we want to have a look at our future, we need only look to Canada, and its notorious Human Rights Commission, which currently has both journalists Mark Steyn and Esra Levant tangled in its web for columns/stories they have written. The HRC takes the campus speech codes we are plagued with a few levels farther, but there is no reason to believe it can’t happen here. If you think our vaunted 1st Amendment right to free speech will protect us, think again. Canada also professes a constitutional right to free speech.

    Remember, the purpose for the 1st Amendment was to protect our rights to express ourselves politically and to freely practice the religion of our choice. Yet, McCain Feingold campaign finance reform law seriously vitiated our political free speech rights, and was upheld by the Supreme Court! Only pornographers seem to have absolute free speech protections. And we know that those who wish to practice their religion by living their lives in accordance with their faith’s tenets are discriminated against when those tenets conflict with laws related to discrimination against those having a particular sexual orientation, etc. In Canada, pastors have to be careful when they preach against homosexuality from the pulpit! It is coming here.

    Regarding abortion, for years laws have seriously discriminated against the rights of abortion protesters to freely and peacefully express themselves.

    To those of you who expend all of your energy worrying about how the Patriot Act, etc. are eroding our freedom of speech rights, I think you are missing the real threat.

  • Don S

    If we want to have a look at our future, we need only look to Canada, and its notorious Human Rights Commission, which currently has both journalists Mark Steyn and Esra Levant tangled in its web for columns/stories they have written. The HRC takes the campus speech codes we are plagued with a few levels farther, but there is no reason to believe it can’t happen here. If you think our vaunted 1st Amendment right to free speech will protect us, think again. Canada also professes a constitutional right to free speech.

    Remember, the purpose for the 1st Amendment was to protect our rights to express ourselves politically and to freely practice the religion of our choice. Yet, McCain Feingold campaign finance reform law seriously vitiated our political free speech rights, and was upheld by the Supreme Court! Only pornographers seem to have absolute free speech protections. And we know that those who wish to practice their religion by living their lives in accordance with their faith’s tenets are discriminated against when those tenets conflict with laws related to discrimination against those having a particular sexual orientation, etc. In Canada, pastors have to be careful when they preach against homosexuality from the pulpit! It is coming here.

    Regarding abortion, for years laws have seriously discriminated against the rights of abortion protesters to freely and peacefully express themselves.

    To those of you who expend all of your energy worrying about how the Patriot Act, etc. are eroding our freedom of speech rights, I think you are missing the real threat.

  • Jay

    Let’s see. American colleges won’t allow ROTC or military recruiters on campus because “don’t ask, don’t tell” discriminates against gays. They won’t allow the American Red Cross on campus because by enforcing FDA policies on blood donations, the ARC discriminates against gays (and their “right” to donate blood).

    What option does a student or faculty member have to say that homosexuality is morally wrong in such a context? It’s the Canada Human Rights Commission in a microcosm.

    Meanwhile, the Patriot Act is allegedly a threat to freedom, but thousands (if not millions) of people have been free to protest against it without repercussions. The risks of the Patriot Act are hypothetical, but on college campuses the suppression of freedom of expression is very real.

  • Jay

    Let’s see. American colleges won’t allow ROTC or military recruiters on campus because “don’t ask, don’t tell” discriminates against gays. They won’t allow the American Red Cross on campus because by enforcing FDA policies on blood donations, the ARC discriminates against gays (and their “right” to donate blood).

    What option does a student or faculty member have to say that homosexuality is morally wrong in such a context? It’s the Canada Human Rights Commission in a microcosm.

    Meanwhile, the Patriot Act is allegedly a threat to freedom, but thousands (if not millions) of people have been free to protest against it without repercussions. The risks of the Patriot Act are hypothetical, but on college campuses the suppression of freedom of expression is very real.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    I’ve noticed that the freedom to speak one’s mind seems to decrease as the logic skills of men decrease.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    I’ve noticed that the freedom to speak one’s mind seems to decrease as the logic skills of men decrease.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    There is a basic problem with your argument, Jay. If there are threats to freedom of speech on a college campus, you can speak freely somewhere else. But the Patriot Act covers the entire country. If it limits your freedom, you must leave the country to get that freedom back, which is a lot more difficult than leaving a school campus.

    I don’t know how the risks of the Patriot Act are hypothetical. The no-fly list can greatly limit freedom to those unlucky enough to share a name that has been used as an alias by a terrorist. Nobody can find out if they are on the list in advance, and there is no procedure for getting your name off of it. That danger is not hypothetical. (And I know someone with a white bread Scandinavian name who has found himself on the list.) And that is just one provision of the act.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    There is a basic problem with your argument, Jay. If there are threats to freedom of speech on a college campus, you can speak freely somewhere else. But the Patriot Act covers the entire country. If it limits your freedom, you must leave the country to get that freedom back, which is a lot more difficult than leaving a school campus.

    I don’t know how the risks of the Patriot Act are hypothetical. The no-fly list can greatly limit freedom to those unlucky enough to share a name that has been used as an alias by a terrorist. Nobody can find out if they are on the list in advance, and there is no procedure for getting your name off of it. That danger is not hypothetical. (And I know someone with a white bread Scandinavian name who has found himself on the list.) And that is just one provision of the act.

  • Don S

    Rick, the limits to freedom of speech rights extend far beyond college campuses. The speech codes and re-education programs on college campuses are a leading indicator of what is to come to our society beyond the campus, a warning sign, so to speak. I mentioned in an earlier post how these speech code issues have now permeated society as a whole in Canada, and the trend is clearly in that direction in the U.S.

    Abortion protesters have been subject to serious restrictions on free speech for years — including being subject to arrest for peaceful protests on public sidewalks, praying on the Supreme Court steps, being made subject to civil liability for statements made on their websites, etc. Campaign finance reform laws have seriously restricted the right of political free speech for interest groups and individuals — the very type of speech specifically intended to be protected by the 1st Amendment.

    On the other hand Patriot Act restrictions are almost entirely hypothetical. The case of the gentleman you know who is on some type of “no fly” list is clearly an error. Maddening and unfortunate as it is, it is ultimately correctable, and these mistaken identity errors sometimes occur in law enforcement. It is not, in any way, an infringement on his free speech rights.

    You say these problems are only on college campuses, so we shouldn’t worry about it, because we can simply leave the campus and have our right to free speech, unimpeded. That’s all well and good, but remember, the minds of our leaders of tomorrow are being molded in the stifling environments of today’s P.C. college campuses. They are being taught that speech codes are fine, if restricting speech benefits society as a whole. Troublesome individuals are to be silenced to promote unity.

    To recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller, in pre-war Nazi Germany:

    “In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

    And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

    And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

    And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

  • Don S

    Rick, the limits to freedom of speech rights extend far beyond college campuses. The speech codes and re-education programs on college campuses are a leading indicator of what is to come to our society beyond the campus, a warning sign, so to speak. I mentioned in an earlier post how these speech code issues have now permeated society as a whole in Canada, and the trend is clearly in that direction in the U.S.

    Abortion protesters have been subject to serious restrictions on free speech for years — including being subject to arrest for peaceful protests on public sidewalks, praying on the Supreme Court steps, being made subject to civil liability for statements made on their websites, etc. Campaign finance reform laws have seriously restricted the right of political free speech for interest groups and individuals — the very type of speech specifically intended to be protected by the 1st Amendment.

    On the other hand Patriot Act restrictions are almost entirely hypothetical. The case of the gentleman you know who is on some type of “no fly” list is clearly an error. Maddening and unfortunate as it is, it is ultimately correctable, and these mistaken identity errors sometimes occur in law enforcement. It is not, in any way, an infringement on his free speech rights.

    You say these problems are only on college campuses, so we shouldn’t worry about it, because we can simply leave the campus and have our right to free speech, unimpeded. That’s all well and good, but remember, the minds of our leaders of tomorrow are being molded in the stifling environments of today’s P.C. college campuses. They are being taught that speech codes are fine, if restricting speech benefits society as a whole. Troublesome individuals are to be silenced to promote unity.

    To recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller, in pre-war Nazi Germany:

    “In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

    And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

    And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

    And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “Rick, the limits to freedom of speech rights extend far beyond college campuses. ”

    But in Jay’s comment, what was compared was free speech on campus and the Patriot Act. I did not make this comparison. Jay did. And he seemed to say that the Patriot Act, as we currently have it, was a greater threat to freedom than current speech codes on campus, as we currently see them.

    You responded by saying the Patriot Act problems were “ultimately correctable.” In a way that any problems with the campus speech codes are not? What does “ultimately correctable” mean?

    “The minds of our leaders of tomorrow are being molded in the stifling environments of today’s P.C. college campuses.”

    Those universities were dangerous long before they became P.C. with their codes. Again, you are arguing a very different point from the one I responded to. Re-read what I wrote and Jay’s statement before you conclude that I am minimalizing free speech. I am not. I was responding to someone minimalizing the dangers of the Patriot Act. I actually know someone whose life was harmed by the Patriot Act. I know nobody whose life was harmed by a campus speech code. Much of the trouble with those codes is not so much a failure to understand the First Amendment, but the natural problem inherent in the idea of public property in the first place.

    Public property is property that is not private. On private property, even property open to the public, we have the right to do all kinds of things. Public property, however, is supposed to be good for everyone. (That can be read as either “noone” or “whoever cries loudest.”) I don’t think any amount of fine-tuning makes the problems go away. I agree that state universities create social problems of the highest magnitude. But the problem is not their speech codes. The problem is their existence in the first place.

    If they did not exist, there would only be private colleges. These private colleges would not be competing against the cheap rates of the government institutions. We would not be taxed to support them. More students would go to colleges representative of the values of the parents. Different colleges could have different codes of behavior. Some would be very free. Some would be very restrictive. P.C. people could see whether anyone wanted to attend their schools when they ejected students for using the term “lady.”

    Teaching at private Christian colleges, I have been very free to say whatever I wanted.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “Rick, the limits to freedom of speech rights extend far beyond college campuses. ”

    But in Jay’s comment, what was compared was free speech on campus and the Patriot Act. I did not make this comparison. Jay did. And he seemed to say that the Patriot Act, as we currently have it, was a greater threat to freedom than current speech codes on campus, as we currently see them.

    You responded by saying the Patriot Act problems were “ultimately correctable.” In a way that any problems with the campus speech codes are not? What does “ultimately correctable” mean?

    “The minds of our leaders of tomorrow are being molded in the stifling environments of today’s P.C. college campuses.”

    Those universities were dangerous long before they became P.C. with their codes. Again, you are arguing a very different point from the one I responded to. Re-read what I wrote and Jay’s statement before you conclude that I am minimalizing free speech. I am not. I was responding to someone minimalizing the dangers of the Patriot Act. I actually know someone whose life was harmed by the Patriot Act. I know nobody whose life was harmed by a campus speech code. Much of the trouble with those codes is not so much a failure to understand the First Amendment, but the natural problem inherent in the idea of public property in the first place.

    Public property is property that is not private. On private property, even property open to the public, we have the right to do all kinds of things. Public property, however, is supposed to be good for everyone. (That can be read as either “noone” or “whoever cries loudest.”) I don’t think any amount of fine-tuning makes the problems go away. I agree that state universities create social problems of the highest magnitude. But the problem is not their speech codes. The problem is their existence in the first place.

    If they did not exist, there would only be private colleges. These private colleges would not be competing against the cheap rates of the government institutions. We would not be taxed to support them. More students would go to colleges representative of the values of the parents. Different colleges could have different codes of behavior. Some would be very free. Some would be very restrictive. P.C. people could see whether anyone wanted to attend their schools when they ejected students for using the term “lady.”

    Teaching at private Christian colleges, I have been very free to say whatever I wanted.

  • Don S

    Rick, I know that Jay was focused on campus speech codes, but my point was to emphasize, first of all, that infringements on our free speech rights are certainly not limited to campuses, and secondly, that what starts on the campuses sooner or later infects society at large. So to only look at the effects of campus speech codes within the boundaries of state college campuses is to miss their greatest impact. Our campuses are supposed to be the incubator of ideas in our free civilization, and they certainly are far from that currently.

    When I said the Patriot Act issue you referenced was correctable, that is because the problem with your acquaintance is a problem of errant law enforcement, not an issue of loss of constitutional rights. It’s terrible for that individual, but it is individual to him and he should be able to get the issue of misidentification corrected. It’s similar to the case of someone being incorrectly identified and wrongly accused of a crime. On the other hand, with respect to speech codes, the only way to correct the destruction of individual constitutional rights to free speech is to eradicate the speech codes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with the Patriot Act, or that it wouldn’t benefit from re-evaluation and consideration of cost-benefits between limitations on citizens vs. protection of citizens, but I don’t think those concerns compare with what is happening to us with respect to the trampling of our 1st amendment rights.

    As far as eliminating public universities and public secondary schools, for that matter, I am totally in agreement with you. They should be eliminated. Everything that involves governmental sponsorship reduces our freedoms, particularly those of us who consider our faith to be an important part of our lives. I am all for the market approach to education you are advocating.

    I do hope, however, that the vast majority of private schools would not opt for p.c. speech codes, and their smothering effect on the marketplace of ideas.

  • Don S

    Rick, I know that Jay was focused on campus speech codes, but my point was to emphasize, first of all, that infringements on our free speech rights are certainly not limited to campuses, and secondly, that what starts on the campuses sooner or later infects society at large. So to only look at the effects of campus speech codes within the boundaries of state college campuses is to miss their greatest impact. Our campuses are supposed to be the incubator of ideas in our free civilization, and they certainly are far from that currently.

    When I said the Patriot Act issue you referenced was correctable, that is because the problem with your acquaintance is a problem of errant law enforcement, not an issue of loss of constitutional rights. It’s terrible for that individual, but it is individual to him and he should be able to get the issue of misidentification corrected. It’s similar to the case of someone being incorrectly identified and wrongly accused of a crime. On the other hand, with respect to speech codes, the only way to correct the destruction of individual constitutional rights to free speech is to eradicate the speech codes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with the Patriot Act, or that it wouldn’t benefit from re-evaluation and consideration of cost-benefits between limitations on citizens vs. protection of citizens, but I don’t think those concerns compare with what is happening to us with respect to the trampling of our 1st amendment rights.

    As far as eliminating public universities and public secondary schools, for that matter, I am totally in agreement with you. They should be eliminated. Everything that involves governmental sponsorship reduces our freedoms, particularly those of us who consider our faith to be an important part of our lives. I am all for the market approach to education you are advocating.

    I do hope, however, that the vast majority of private schools would not opt for p.c. speech codes, and their smothering effect on the marketplace of ideas.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Okay, Don. We may not be light years apart here.

    As to First Amendment rights, I don’t see everything you listed as being in the same category. I think that for a few decades, the major champions of First Amendment rights have had a very Fourteenth Amendment conception of them. And so they’re really not championing the rights as originally conceived by the Founders. That’s legitimate, but I would not see this as a First Amendment question per se. Free speech or no free speech, nobody has the right to squeal censorship if they get arrested for standing on your bed at 3am making political speeches. The status of ownership at a public university is a dicier matter. I think such confusing venues should not be so common.
    (This is part of what makes the Fred Phelps case so difficult. The problem is not Free Speech, but the fact that he can gain nearby access to almost anywhere in the country through public sidewalks. So the government has made it so you cannot get away from him.)

    The Patriot Act, from what I’ve read about it and in it, is a mishmash of provisions that invite misuse. The no-fly list is an attempt by the state to handle problems that should also be handled by the airlines. In a more laissez-faire system, airlines would have an incentive to provide better security, as they would not be bailed out when their security measures failed. They are asking for huge amounts of power in order to take responsibility for things that are not their job.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Okay, Don. We may not be light years apart here.

    As to First Amendment rights, I don’t see everything you listed as being in the same category. I think that for a few decades, the major champions of First Amendment rights have had a very Fourteenth Amendment conception of them. And so they’re really not championing the rights as originally conceived by the Founders. That’s legitimate, but I would not see this as a First Amendment question per se. Free speech or no free speech, nobody has the right to squeal censorship if they get arrested for standing on your bed at 3am making political speeches. The status of ownership at a public university is a dicier matter. I think such confusing venues should not be so common.
    (This is part of what makes the Fred Phelps case so difficult. The problem is not Free Speech, but the fact that he can gain nearby access to almost anywhere in the country through public sidewalks. So the government has made it so you cannot get away from him.)

    The Patriot Act, from what I’ve read about it and in it, is a mishmash of provisions that invite misuse. The no-fly list is an attempt by the state to handle problems that should also be handled by the airlines. In a more laissez-faire system, airlines would have an incentive to provide better security, as they would not be bailed out when their security measures failed. They are asking for huge amounts of power in order to take responsibility for things that are not their job.

  • Don S

    I agree, Rick, I don’t think we are far apart at all.

    I agree with you that folks get confused as to when they actually enjoy a 1st Amendment right to free speech, as it is only a right enjoyed with respect to the government, not private parties, as you aptly point out. The 14th Amendment certainly complicated things, by applying rights intended for application only with respect to the federal government to the states and local governments. And, the extension of governmental tentacles into almost every aspect of our lives has further worsened the problem beyond measure.

    And most of our citizens either don’t care or don’t understand any of this, and why it is so dangerous.

  • Don S

    I agree, Rick, I don’t think we are far apart at all.

    I agree with you that folks get confused as to when they actually enjoy a 1st Amendment right to free speech, as it is only a right enjoyed with respect to the government, not private parties, as you aptly point out. The 14th Amendment certainly complicated things, by applying rights intended for application only with respect to the federal government to the states and local governments. And, the extension of governmental tentacles into almost every aspect of our lives has further worsened the problem beyond measure.

    And most of our citizens either don’t care or don’t understand any of this, and why it is so dangerous.


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