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#FreeSpeech in the News: July 26, 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.

The City of Cleveland handled the Republican National Convention (RNC) last week with poise and grace. Free speech was unsurprisingly front and center in many of the political protests and ideological debates that the convention brought. TV station WLWT5 reported on the newly renovated “Free Speech Zone” of Public Square and the controversies that ensued there during the convention.

Concerning the candidate nominated by the Republican Party, one Donald J. Trump, is known for his brash manner of speaking and sometimes less than careful choice of words. This, as reported by ABC 27, turns out to be part of his appeal, as well as a rallying cry for his opponents. One such opponent, Clinton J. Moyer, writing for The Huffington Post, argued this week that supporting The Donald purely because he “tells it like it is” and “speaks his mind” is irresponsible and ultimately ignores what he is saying, especially when there are other candidates who speak their mind.

My longtime reaction has stuck close to the central theme of free speech — yes, it’s good that we can say anything; but that doesn’t mean that anything we say is good. To support him because he “speaks his mind,” but refuse to pay attention to what he’s actually saying, is simply irrational.

One topic that Trump spoke freely about in his keynote address to the convention was religious liberty as it pertains to free speech. “The evangelical and religious community… [has] so much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds at your own pulpits,” he said. “An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views.” As President, CrossMap reports, this restriction on free speech is something Donald Trump would like to change.

With the RNC now finished and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) already begun in Philly, media attention has shifted wholly from one political event to the other without much time to pause for reflection. At least one opinion writer for The Wall Street Journal, Kimberley Strassel, took time during the RNC to reflect on the seeming divide between America’s two major political parties on the topic of free speech and the First Amendment itself. She views it as a stark right-left divide in her recent article.

The left is slamming the GOP’s recently passed party platform, taking the expected shots at what they are calling the party’s “extreme” cultural and social agenda. A far more important and extreme divide can be found between the right’s growing embrace of free-speech protections and the left’s growing ambitions to muzzle its political opponents.

Moving the conversation from the physical to the digital, much was written this week about the topic of free speech online in a discussion of who can say what on the web. Social media giant Twitter has raised questions with reports of a lifetime ban it has placed on tweets from conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos after he reportedly orchestrated a wave of racist and sexist comments directed at comedian and actress Leslie Jones, one of the co-starts of the latest “Ghostbusters” movie, reports the Newseum Institute. Britain’s The Telegraph argues what some view as censorship in such situations, however, is common sense.

Just because a stranger calls you something unspeakable under a pseudonym on Twitter, that doesn’t make it any more acceptable than if they were to do it to your face.

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