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Monday, October 5, 2009

Follow-Up to P&G Posting - Free Speech Isn't Always Free

I am Referring to this article and my posting from Saturday morning.

What's amazing is that there are more than a few dim-witted folks out there who are claiming that the free speech rights of these fired workers were somehow violated by Proctor & Gamble when they were fired. Let me be blunt: There is no such thing as an unlimited, unfettered right to free speech. It simply does not exist.

Here is the actual text of the First Amendment:

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.

It says that Congress can't write a law that abridges the right of folks to speak. In other words, it says that Congress can't pass a law that says "you can be thrown in jail for talking about ______". What's more, within the larger context of the amendment, it's actually referring to the ability of people to gather and protest. The courts have held throughout our country's history that this right does have limitations; in fact, the most basic of high school civics classes teaches this through the "you can't yell fire! in a movie theater" example.

What the amendment doesn't do is to abridge the rights of property owners to dictate what happens on their property. Just as a farmer can deny a group of religious fanatics a request to have a commune on his/her farm, so to can any other private property owner dictate what can be said and done on their property. It's no different than any one of us asking a loud party guest to leave. The rights held by that farmer or by you aren't superseded by the First Amendment. If they were, our society would become unlivable.

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