Liberals say the First Amendment is dangerous and needs to be curtailed

Liberals have decided they no longer like the First Amendment. In an astonishing article in the New York Times, liberals say that conservatives have "weaponized" the First Amendment and are using it in ways that are not promoting the liberal agenda. Therefore, liberals want to shut the First Amendment down.

The immediate source of legal angst is a pair of Supreme Court cases. One of them found that workers no longer had to pay dues to government unions if they didn't want to support the activities of the union. It found that forcing them to pay dues also forced them to participate in the union's political agenda.

Liberals, however, say that by failing to force people to participate in government unions' speech, by giving them a choice whether to add their voice (dues) to the unions', the First Amendment is being "weaponized," when just the opposite is true.

The other case that roused the liberals' ire was a ruling that religious counseling centers didn't have to inform pregnant women about places to go and have abortions. This was another example of the court refusing to force people to give compelled speech, but liberals also view this as weaponizing the First Amendment, and now they think we have too much of it.

Liberals used to love the First Amendment, when it promoted groups it approved of, such as pornographers, spreaders of obscenity, or Nazis who wanted to march through Jewish neighborhoods. (For the record, I don't think liberals like Nazis per se, just the ones who walk through Jewish neighborhoods.)

But now that the First Amendment is being used to give people freedom from advocating for unions or abortionists, they don't like it so much.

There was a certain naïveté in how liberals used to approach free speech, said Frederick Schauer, a law professor at the University of Virginia.

“Because so many free-speech claims of the 1950s and 1960s involved anti-obscenity claims, or civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests, it was easy for the left to sympathize with the speakers or believe that speech in general was harmless,” he said.

Some liberals now say that free speech disproportionately protects the powerful and the status quo.

“When I was younger, I had more of the standard liberal view of civil liberties,” said Louis Michael Seidman, a law professor at Georgetown. “And I’ve gradually changed my mind about it. What I have come to see is that it’s a mistake to think of free speech as an effective means to accomplish a more just society.”

Yes, you read that right. A law professor is coming out against the First Amendment.

Kathleen Sullivan, a former dean of Stanford Law School (who was actually my professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School), says in the Times article that corporations are using the First Amendment for nefarious purposes, to evade disclosure and labeling requirements that the government has decided is best for you.

And of course, liberals hate Citizens United, which struck down campaign finance limits for corporations (and unions). Before Citizens United, certain corporations (the liberal media), were able to spend unlimited amounts on politics and elections, while all other corporate entities were silenced. This was the liberal idea of fairness.

Here's another lefty professor having regrets about the First Amendment:

“With the receding of Warren court liberalism, free-speech law took a sharp right turn,” Professor Seidman wrote in a new article to be published in the Columbia Law Review. “Instead of providing a shield for the powerless, the First Amendment became a sword used by people at the apex of the American hierarchy of power. Among its victims: proponents of campaign finance reform, opponents of cigarette addiction, the L.B.G.T.Q. community, labor unions, animal rights advocates, environmentalists, targets of hate speech and abortion providers.”

The title of the article asked, “Can Free Speech Be Progressive?”

“The answer,” the article said, “is no.”

Justice Kagan said the court’s conservatives had found a dangerous tool, “turning the First Amendment into a sword.” 

So get ready for the Left's assault on the First Amendment. If the liberals get enough seats on the courts, they won't hesitate to limit our speech. When you look at the bigger picture--confiscation of property through high taxation, creeping confiscation of gun rights, and now, a desire to abridge first amendment rights--what kind of "fundamental transformation" does that look like to you?

Ed Straker is the senior writer at

Image Credit: Brent Payne, via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0