Saturday, January 23, 2010

Supreme Court Right on Free Speech

This week's U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizen's United v. FEC has set off a firestorm of criticism, with a few voices on the political right joining a seeming majority on the left in denouncing the decision. The Court rejected portions of the McCain-Feingold Act that restricted political speech during the times when the majority of people pay attention to politics -- that is, during the periods just before elections. That people who think of themselves as "liberal" could countenance such restrictions boggles the mind, but their denunciations of the opinion have been strident. Many have greatly exaggerated the supposed ramifications of the ruling while giving scant attention to the actual scope and basis for it.

One of the frequent criticisms of the decision -- made by the same people who are sufficiently non-literal to extend free "speech" rights to activities such as pole dancing and flag burning -- is that it recognizes free speech rights to persons, meaning both human beings and statutory persons -- corporations. They argue that freedom of speech is an individual right, but not a corporate one. Really?

Freedom of speech is not the only right provided for under the First Amendment of the Constitution. There is also freedom of the press. Given the logic of the Court's opponents, one might then suppose that freedom of the press extends to individual writers or editors, but not to, say, The New York Times or the Gannet Corporation. Freedom of the free exercise of religion? Well, that is perfectly fine for private individuals, but it wasn't intended for churches or other incorporated religious groups?

The Court got the decision right. One suspects that the sky will not fall. In fact, we are a more free country as a result of this repudiation on restrictions on free political speech.

1 Comments:

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6:53 AM  

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