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#FreeSpeech in the News: July 19, 2016

As the Citadel of Free Speech here in Cleveland, we work to protect and promote the basis of our democracy by sharing related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century. Here's what's making the news - and what you should know about - this week.

As Clevelanders, the first thing on most of our minds this week is the beginning of the Republican National Convention (RNC). It has been 80 years since Cleveland has hosted a political gathering as large as this one, and as delegates and media pour into the city, they bring many perspectives not only on Cleveland, but on politics and free speech. The Washington Post, in particular, urged RNC attendees and their readers to take a stand for free speech in Cleveland and beyond.

Back in 1970, another tumultuous time, Joni Mitchell sand a warning, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." In American and worldwide, we can't let that happen to the free flow of ideas.

The Washington Post also offered coverage this week on a bill entititled the First Amendment Defense Act, which aims to oppose the freedom of same-sex couples to marry. This begs the question: what is the proper interpration and invocation of the First Amendment?

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), sponsor of the legislation, told a House hearing Tuesday, "The bill reaffirms the latter and spirit of the First Amendment, by stating unequivocally that the federal governement may not revoke or deny a federal tax expemption, grant, contract, accreditation, license or certification to an individual or institution based on a religious belief about marriage."

Some may consider the the bill a step too far in justifying discrimination as free speech, and this week, Joe Rodgers, writing for Alabama.com, penned an article considering cases from this election cycle where free speech may not have been justified.

The right isn't absolute. There are legal prohibitions, including but not limited to the familiar "Fire!" in a crowded building. Society places informal restrictions: Most of us frown on the use of racial slurs, for instance, or crude language in polite company.

The recent tragedies also call the right of free speech into question. Just this week, the Inquisitr reports on a Georgia man arrested for posting the status "kill all white cops" on Facebook. Is speech on social media protected free speech?

Also in the political realm, The Hill published a blog this week criticizing the Obama adminstration for "trashing" free speech over the past 8 years by falling short of his promises for government transparency.

U.S. President Barack Obama came into office pledging open government, but he has fallen short of his promise. Journalists and transparency advocated say the White House curbs routine disclosure of infomation and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press. Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information and broad electronic surveillance programs deter government sources from speaking to journalists.

In closing, two other unqiue perspectives on free speech arose this week. The first, offered in The Guardian, is an opinion piece that argues the Motion Picture Association of America's proposed ban on smoking in films infringes upon the free speech rights of filmakers. The second, in Bloomberg View defends the free speech rights of college campus tour guides, even the ones giving you false information.

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