Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Say what?

We were discussing the sad karma of Elizabeth Lauten - that former Congressional spokesperson who had such awful things to say about the president's children and wound up having a can tied to her, even before The Smoking Gun turned up legal documents from when she was arrested for stealing from a department store - and how it would have been so much better for her to keep her thoughts to herself.  Unless her goal was to get herself fired and made to be an object of national scorn...

But someone said, "What of her First Amendment rights?" Here is what the First Amendment to the US Constitution says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
OK?  So the government can't force you to be Lutheran, nor can they stop you from being one. You can speak on street corners, on your front porch, or in the car driving the kids to soccer, and no government official will crack down on you for speaking your mind.  And you can form a flash  mob (is that still a thing?) and you can email your county councilperson asking that something, at long last, finally be done about the potholes on Main Street.

That's how I understand it.  I'm no lawyer, no Constitutional scholar, but I look things up to learn.  I found this list of the types of speech that are NOT protected by Amendment 1:

Fighting words
Defamation (includes libel, slander)
Child pornography
Incitement to imminent lawless action
True threats
Solicitations to commit crimes
Say what you will! It's America!
And that's as it should be.  None of these nine do anything to improve society as it is.

And another thing - there is no "get out of jail" card that comes with the Amendment. All it says is that you can say what you want. If you work for a meat packing company and you want to tell the world that you hate the thought of preparing, selling and eating meat, you can say whatever you want to.  If you work for a law firm and you think they are the biggest crooks since Capone, go for it. You can say what you think here.

But remember - so can your boss.  And "you're fired" is something he or she can say, too.


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