October 21, 2006

Maybe I'm Missing Something...

Justin Katz

... but could somebody explain what this paragraph — from a letter to the Providence Journal concerning same-sex marriage — is supposed to imply:

The First Amendment protects the bishop's right to express his opinion as it protects the rest of us from his opinions. At least it should.
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The answer is fairly simple and sad: complete and utter ignorance of the text and meaning of the First Amendment. Yet another example of the need for better civics education. Don't think it's too much of a stretch to guess which party she belongs to...

Posted by: Will at October 21, 2006 1:00 AM

Will is correct.

Mr. Argo goes on to say, "The Bible lost its credibility on the issue of human rights when it was cited as justification for slavery a mere century and a half ago by members of the bishop's vocation (pro-slavery ministers and priests, along with politicians). Granted, abolitionists also used the Bible, finding more enlightened passages, but none that specifically denounce the institution."

Isn't it a little silly to say that someone referencing a book or a text on one side or the other of an issue affects it's credibility? In the same vein, if the bible had denounced slavery, would Mr. Argo have found it credible on other subjects?

It would have been more effective if Mr. Argo had expressed disagreement with the Bishop's statements - there are some good basis' to do so - without making weak attempts to discredit the book/text which undergirds the Bishop's views.

Posted by: SusanD at October 21, 2006 7:43 AM

It might be that the author means that the First Amendment protects him from a state organized religion (or theocracy) that would most probably influence the enforcement of the mores of the church.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 21, 2006 8:51 PM

Amendment I - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.

"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."

Posted by: SusanD at October 22, 2006 8:12 AM

So is it the letter writer's belief that the First Amendment disqualifies the bishop's opinions from the operation of our representative democracy?

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 22, 2006 9:06 AM

No, I think the letter writer believes, as many of the uneducated believe, that somewhere in the Constitution there's a right to not be offended.

I'm sure Bobby's whacked out version of the Constitution has it in there somewhere right behind the right to an abortion and the clearly defined paragraph on the right to privacy. Maybe he'll share a quote or two with us and let us know what article we can find it in.

Posted by: Greg at October 22, 2006 10:36 AM

Dear Greg,

My version happens to be Madison's version. Therefore, if you disagree with me, you disagree with the guy who wrote most of it.

You only have a right "not to be offended" if that offense is based on discrimination towards a protected class. For these purposes, I would think that "Creed" as an overall category fits.

I don't have the ability to get into the writer's mind so I won't postulate as to what I think he meant to say.

Instead, I'll say it on my own:

The Bishop has the right to engage in the same free speech the rest of us do. Local governments should refrain from automatically turning his comments into law without proper review.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at October 22, 2006 2:08 PM

"You only have a right "not to be offended" if that offense is based on discrimination towards a protected class. For these purposes, I would think that "Creed" as an overall category fits."

Could you quote where the 'freedom from being offended by something someone said' is indicated in the Constitution? You make many statements on how your interpretation of the Constitution is right, but I don't know as I've ever seen you properly quote it in an argument.

Posted by: Greg at October 22, 2006 4:06 PM

Dear Greg,

Many courts have held that free speech is limited if it used to create "an environment of discrimination".

So, tomorrow, when you go to work, find a Jewish person and use the invective of your choice provided it is based on their Creed. You of course will pay a penalty.

This is an outbranch of the 15th.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at October 22, 2006 6:08 PM

I took it to mean what smmtheory took it to mean. Thanks to the First Amendment, the bishop is free to say whatever he wants, but (thanks to the same amendment) the fact that a bishop believes and says it is neither necessary nor sufficient for it to be enacted into law.

Of course, nothing in the First Amendment stops policies that echo religious beliefs from being enacted. It does, however, require a non-religious justification for the enactment of laws.

In other words, what Bobby Oliveira said.

Posted by: mrh at October 23, 2006 11:40 AM

"So, tomorrow, when you go to work, find a Jewish person and use the invective of your choice provided it is based on their Creed. You of course will pay a penalty."

Yeah, but that penalty would be to my face from someone's fist, not from the government. And I would not have violated their legal right to not be offended as no such law exists.

Posted by: Greg at October 23, 2006 12:15 PM

Dear Greg,

You don't know a lot about employment law, do you??

Property can be taken by a government agency based on willful acts of discrimination.

Of course, the whole "fire in a crowded theater test" should have told you that the Constitution is living and breathing as well as sometimes the courts need to expound on previously held legislation.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at October 23, 2006 2:08 PM

What does employment law have to do with your claimed "Constitutional Right to Not Be Offended"?

If it's in the Constitution, why would they need to write such a thing into employment law?

Posted by: Greg at October 23, 2006 3:51 PM

The courts did no such thing because courts cannot do such a thing. Employment laws are determined by Legislatures, doing what Legislatures do.

Courts are there simply to INTERPRET laws as set forth by the government, not to create law by some judicial fiat.

I'll answer your slanderous question simply by saying that my wife is a Jew and leave it at that.

Oh, and you've YET to quote the Constitutional text as to where the Right to Not Be Offended can be located to support your argument.

Still waitin' on that.

Posted by: Greg at October 23, 2006 8:37 PM

Sorry, Bobby. I've deleted your latest comment. I'm not going to let you go there. I suppose readers can infer its gist from Greg's response.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 23, 2006 9:06 PM

Dear Greg,

Again, the Constitution is living and breathing. Had I known your wife was Jewish, I would have picked another nationality. The idea was not to hit so close to home and my apologies for doing so.

The interpretations of the 15th Amendment say that you cannot be offended by the language of Government. Courts have taken this to mean any public accomodation.

For the record, most employment law is federal administrative law built from the 15th. (The obvious exceptions being that dealing with tax structure.)

You have never proven, nor will your associates, that the Constitution is not living and breathing. It is what Madison intended. Therefore, its extraploations, as was the intent of the designer, come from the Courts.

Otherwise, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater would be protected.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at October 23, 2006 10:51 PM

Why would yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater be protected speech when preventing it obviously does nothing to hamper your expression of political opinion?

Posted by: smmtheory at October 24, 2006 12:03 AM

The Constitution, as a living document, was intended to evolve and change by amendments, passed by the legislature. It was not, is not, and should not be re-written by unelected judges illegally MAKING law from the bench, as you like to think it should be done, without input from the electorate, and with no recourse.

But, it's a moot point as the liberal way of doing things is dying out. Regardless of whether Republicans lose the House and Senate in this upcoming election, we've already changed the face of the Supreme Court in such a way that future rulings will be made based on the LAW, not on what the Justices WANT THE LAW TO BE.

Add to that fact the reality that Democrats are exterminating themselves via abortions of the next generation of bleeding-heart liberals, and you've got a recipe for the country CONTINUING to move to the right, despite your skewed perceptions from the People's Republic of New England.

If you want to get some perspective on how the REAL America works, I suggest you spend six months in the mid-west getting to know the people that you normally just fly over.

Posted by: Greg at October 24, 2006 8:51 AM

Dear Smmtheory,

The First Amendment does not make an issue out of political versus non political speech. It took a court to do that.


Where does the laughter begin? Your first statement is not what Madison intended. In fact, he almost, in his wisdom, did not offer the Bill of Rights for fear that someone like you would come along. The Courts are there to protect us from the state and enhance liberty. They are not there so you can practice hatred and intolerence.

You next statement is self-contradictory. We're going to give those justices laws that open up liberty. Therefore, if they do as you suggest, they must interpret them in the same way. The entire history of the world has moved towards social liberty and will continue to do so.

If the country were where you suggest, why wouldn't you be gaining seats and not losing them? The country is and will continue to be long after we're gone center-left on domestic policy and center-right on foriegn policy.

I've campaigned in 37 states, I communicate on a daily basis with folks from all 50 and over 40 foriegn countries. I humbly suggest you give up thoughts obviously given to you by somebody else.

Some right wing crank with no knowledge of the Founders, understanding of the Constituion, or awareness of how balanced the country is gave you these ideas. You can be a conservative but give the incredible back to its source.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at October 25, 2006 5:15 PM

It took a court to make an issue out of political vs. non-political speech? Just what kind of speech do you think needs to be protected outside of political speech? When laws get made banning certain kind of speech, what kind of speech is it a government might want to curb other than political?

Posted by: smmtheory at October 25, 2006 10:16 PM

Dear Smmtheory,

Thank you for making my point.

According to you, "we can survive on the words of the Constitution alone."

This prima facie case for why you can't.

The First Amendment protects "speech." Doesn't say what kind, doesn't say what forum, doesn't cover obscenity. Everything we know about the speech right since comes from interpretation.

It doesn't matter what I think. It matters what the court thinks.

I can see a scenario where the government would be interested in curbing certain forms of commercial speech. In fact, it does. I suggest you read some of the FTC documents.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at October 26, 2006 12:28 PM

It's kind of difficult for me to make a point by asking a couple of questions Bubba. It's awfully presumptious of you to pretend to know what I think about the Constitution simply on the basis of a couple of questions. Believe it or not, there are people who through common sense don't need the court's interpretation to know what speech is protected and what speech is not. If you can be presumptious though, so can I, and I'll presume that you can't think of any kind of speech that needs protecting outside of political speech other than commercial speech. And that's pretty sad when you get down to it, because commercial speech has nothing to do with an individual's liberty.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 26, 2006 9:53 PM

Dear Smmtheory,

That has not been your argument up to now. (By the way, how did you know what my nickname was during the 92 election in San Antonio?)

You have said that all you need "are the words". How is your interpretation, or anyone else's, supposed to replace that of the Court's?

No one in the history of the court has attempted a "common sense" test. By the way, in the interests of due process, who decides what "common sense" is??

There's immediately another kind of speech that is limited. It's called "threatening speech" as in making a bomb threat for instance. Nothing political there.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at October 27, 2006 6:12 PM

I was nowhere near San Antonio in 92.

Anyway, my interpretation isn't what people need to be concerned about because I don't have the power to make laws that abrogate freedoms. A common sense test has never been applied in the courts because people that exercise common sense rarely, if ever, end up in the courts.

Finally, the questions were related to... Just what kind of speech do you think needs to be protected outside of political speech? Does your response indicate that you think threatening speech should be protected?

Posted by: smmtheory at October 28, 2006 8:46 PM

Dear Smmtheory,

We have somehow created a society based on litigation instead of "working it out."

There has to be a logical difference between an idiot who uses a racial epithet because he or she can't think of anything else hurtful to say and the human being who actually makes decisions based on race and then hurls an epithet.

Somewhere along the way, we have also lost the right to be angry, and along with it, the right to apologize.

Obviously, purely commercial speech does not deserve protection. However, more every day speech deserves some.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at October 29, 2006 2:45 PM

Speak for yourself fellow, I've not lost any right to be angry or to apologize. And I haven't noticed any everyday speech being banned either. And anyway, I don't see that the First Amendment protects anybody from another person's opinion... whether it is vocalized or not.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 29, 2006 10:26 PM