In a column on the Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case involving a California law requiring that political donor lists be made public, George Will describes a curious legal distinction between “fundamental” rights that cannot be abridged and lesser “nonfundamental” rights that can be abridged if there is a “rational basis.” This current case, according to Will, would take the dangerous step of applying the “rational basis” criterion to a fundamental right. [Read more…]
The Supreme Court struck down the limits to the number of candidates a person is allowed to give money to and the total amount you are allowed to give. Left standing is the limit a person can give to one candidate–$48,600–but the law had limited total giving to $123,200. That meant that a donor wanting to give the maximum amount could only support nine candidates.
I know that critics of the ruling are claiming that this opens the door to political corruption and gives rich people the opportunity to buy candidates. But are there any constitutional grounds for objecting to this ruling? Aren’t limitations of political activity unconstitutional on the face of it? [Read more…]
Mollie Hemingway has written a piece in the Wall Street Journal about the impact of gay marriage on religious liberty, which is being construed as applying only to religious institutions and not to individuals. [Read more…]
A Senate committee approved a “media shield” bill designed to protect journalists from having to reveal their sources and giving them protection from government surveillance. In doing so, the bill defines who gets to be a journalist. To get these protections, you have to be a paid, professional employee of a recognized news organization. Bloggers aren’t protected. I might be because of my past work for World Magazine. But not, presumably, Matt Drudge, who has often broken stories from confidential sources, including President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Beyond this particular law is a bigger question. The Constitution guarantees freedom of “the press.” Is that to apply only to professional journalists? Or to those who own printing presses, namely, newspaper companies and publishing houses? At the time of the Constitution, individuals like Ben Franklin–who could hardly be considered a professional news reporter– ran their own printing presses, printing their political opinions and commenting on the news of the day. The internet in effect allows just about everybody to have their own printing press. Shouldn’t freedom of the press extend to what you write on a blog or your FaceBook page?
And might other Constitutional rights be restricted by defining who they apply to? Isn’t this already happening in the way some are construing civil liberties? “You have the right to keep and bear arms. That is, you have the right to join the National Guard and to keep your arms in the local armory.” “You have freedom of religion. No one will stop you from going to church, and we won’t make your church pay for morning after pills. Just don’t act on your religious beliefs in the way you run your business.” “You have freedom of speech, which entitles you to use pornography. But don’t criticize homosexuality in public.” [Read more…]