Is the end of free speech near?

The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution states (in part): "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech[.]"

Regarding free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1964, with unanimity, said:

... we consider this case [NEW YORK TIMES CO. v. SULLIVAN, 376 U.S. 254] against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it [free speech] may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.

This year's "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" and the recent "Draw Mohammed" contest in Garland, TX, organized by Pam Geller, have renewed the issue of "hate speech" and "free speech" in this country.  Let's see: sharia law is Islam's government, so drawing Mohammed should be viewed as expressing free speech about a government official.  So Pam Geller and Molly Norris should be off the hook from a legal perspective – at least in the U.S.

But what about "vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks" directed at non-government and public officials?  Are those remarks considered free speech to be protected?  Dr. Eugene Volokh, the Gary T. Schwartz professor of law at the UCLA School of Law, writing in The Washington Post, thinks so.

... there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas.  One is as free to condemn Islam - or Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens - as one is to condemn capitalism or Socialism or Democrats or Republicans.

Chris Cuomo, co-host of CNN's morning show, also a lawyer, thinks otherwise: "hate speech," he said, "is excluded from protection[.]"

The debate rages on.  But perhaps not for long – for three reasons.

First, there is this response from a recent YouGov poll to the question:

3. Support a Law against Hate Speech
Would you support or oppose a law that would make it a crime for people to make public comments intended to stir up hatred against a group based on such things as their race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation?

 

Support

Oppose

Republicans

37%

47%

Democrats

51%

26%

So the stage is set for Democrats; a majority of Democrats support curtailing free speech.  Is limiting free speech a conservative versus liberal argument?  Not all Democrats are liberal and not all Republicans are conservative, but until YouGov publishes a poll using those labels, we have to draw conclusions based upon what we have.  So most liberals want to limit free speech, and some conservatives do as well.

Second, consider what Republicans are currently doing: telling conservatives to drop dead.  They voted to approve Loretta Lynch, even though Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, said that he would not support or vote for an attorney general nominee if that nominee supported Obama's integration amnesty.  And fourteen Senate Republicans voted for Obama's comprehensive immigration overhaul bill.  And twenty Republican senators voted for Obamacare.  And House Speaker John Boehner led Republicans as they approved Obama's $1.1-trillion spending bill.

As George Rasley, editor at Conservative HQ, said:

So McConnell's vote for Lynch was a sort of "go to hell" moment that conservatives should recognize for what it is: Mitch McConnell saying directly to the conservative Republican grassroots and the conservative movement that opposed Lynch that, despite the fact that conservative voters handed back the Senate majority to the Republican Party in 2014 to make him Senate Majority Leader, he not only doesn't care what they think, he will go out of his way to disrespect them and confound their policy goals.

It's obvious that some Republicans place pleasing Obama, Democrats, and liberals above keeping their word to constituents.  Is free speech next?

Third, look at the atmosphere in Congress.  In an article entitled "CONTEST: WHAT WILL THE G.O.P. CAVE ON NEXT?," Ann Coulter provides an excellent example of how Republicans are caving on crime and sentencing.  Will they cave next on free speech?  Also, congressional Republicans may cite the 37% of Republicans who said in the YouGov poll that they want to curtail free speech as a reason for caving on this issue.

Add a fourth reason if you want to: the MSM is trying to criminalize what it considers hate speech.  And results of the YouGov survey illustrate why it's doing this: 

 

Support

Oppose

Blacks

62%

14%

Hispanics

50%

24%

I have read the First Amendment numerous times, and I can find no exception for what some call "hate speech."  But hey, I'm not an elected Republican who can tell those who elected him to go to hell, so my reading doesn't count.

Dr. Warren Beatty (not the liberal actor) earned a Ph.D. in quantitative management and statistics from Florida State University.  Now retired, he was a (very conservative) university professor.  He is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army.  He blogs at rwno.limewebs.com.