On the 4th of July, we celebrate all things American. Free speech is arguably the most American principle we have.
In other countries, even many liberal Western democracies, there are laws preventing citizens from expressing themselves. Language that is protected in the United States by the First Amendment could land you in jail in other countries.
Could America ever become like this too?
It seems to be increasingly popular, particularly on the broad Left, to think that language that supposedly offends or does harm should be censored.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado web designer who had refused to take part in projects that celebrate same-sex marriage due to religious objections. The high court found that it was within her First Amendment rights to do so.
Free speech, and specifically religious liberty, are cited in the text of the First Amendment so the court ruling should be no surprise. However, the Biden White House called it a “step backward in the fight for equality,” which we can assume means this administration does not support free speech.
After the Supreme Court ruled that the right to free speech allows certain businesses to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the ruling takes the nation ‘backward in the fight for equality’ https://t.co/VKrOWH3TeA pic.twitter.com/A6crwBDC8E
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 30, 2023
This should not surprise us from the same White House that not long ago announced a ‘Disinformation Governance Board,’ a new government agency that would police the thought of American citizens.
I swear I’m not making this up. Biden and his party really thought this was a good idea, something they could get away with, and everyone would just ignore the First Amendment. Then they nixed the plan due to widespread public backlash.
When I was a kid in the 1980s and someone said something controversial, a common refrain was “It’s a free country.” This era was not long after the country’s most important free speech advocacy group of the time, the American Civil Liberties Union, defended literal Nazis’ right to free speech in 1978.
Now powerful elected officials and many other Americans think that free speech protections should not extend to what they call “disinformation,” “misinformation” or “hate speech.”
But “disinformation” as decided by who? “Misinformation” defined by who? “Hate speech” according to who?
Well, the government, of course. This is worse than merely ditching free speech. It is un-American.
Many say it’s time to let slip the all-American value of free speech. They say we must because the “common good” holds a higher priority. But again, the “common good” according to… who?
We saw this illiberal tendency on full display abroad last month in Ireland, where that country’s Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly called for restricting speech and basic freedoms.
“When one thinks about it, all law and all legislation is about the restriction of freedom. This is exactly what we are doing here,” O’Reilly argued. “We are restricting freedom but we are doing it for the common good.”
She said that with a straight face. See for yourself.
"We are restricting freedom for the common good": Irish Green Party Senator Pauline O'Reilly says that her government's hate speech bill is about "restricting freedom," and censoring views on gender identity if those views create "discomfort."#gript pic.twitter.com/H7QIT0QHmf
— gript (@griptmedia) June 15, 2023
O’Reilly continued, “If a person’s views on other people’s identities make their lives unsafe and insecure, and cause them such deep discomfort that they cannot live in peace, our job as legislators is to restrict those freedoms for the common good.”
“One cannot do and say whatever one likes in our society, which is a society governed by laws,” she added. “This is very fundamental to a legislative system. It should be one of the very fundamentals for any legislators who sit in this Chamber that they understand what we do is restrict freedoms.“
So, less free speech in Ireland, all in the name of the “common good’—as defined by Pauline O’Reilly, we can presume.
Unlike so many other countries, the United States has the right to freedom of speech for all citizens enshrined in our country’s governing charter. It is the first right stated clearly in our Bill of Rights for a reason.
On this Independence Day, let us celebrate America by forever protecting the values that make our country so unique.