By Reverend Paul N. Papas II
March 1, 2022
The disturbing trend of silencing speakers who don’t speak the official narrative is causing angst for Joe and Jane citizen as big tech happily joins in on the censorship. This high tech lynching has recently been expanded to forcibly silencing congressmen and state legislators. This enforced silence does not allow the full range of ideas to be aired in public. This forced silence also violates a foundational principle of our Constitutional Republic and the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. Enforced silence is a form of abuse. Abuse is known to cause fear, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Attorneys are taught that if you can’t win on the facts, argue the procedures.
Those who don’t have the facts on their side and feel insecure feel they have the right to forcibly silence opposing views.
Writing for the majority, Justice William O. Douglas says that the “function of free speech … is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.” In Terminiello v. Chicago, the Supreme Court limits the scope of the “fighting words” doctrine (1)
In what would become one of the most famous passages in First Amendment history, Justice Brennan announced our First Amendment freedoms represented a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” , the Supreme Court In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.(1)
Justice Louis Brandeis writes in his concurring opinion a passage that becomes a fundamental First Amendment principle: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence” in WHITNEY V. CALIFORNIA (1)
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.
Arguably, the First Amendment is also most important to the maintenance of our Constitutional Republic.
The first part of the First Amendment reflects the framers’ experience with the long history of religious strife in Europe. They realized that religious discord can be explosive and cause tremendous disruption in politics. It would be doubly so if one religious sect were favored over all others. So, they ensured that federal government cannot interfere in the citizens’ practice of their religion.
The freedoms of speech, press, assembly and the right to petition the government and seek redress of grievances proclaim that citizens have the right to hold the government accountable. Freedom of speech and press allows citizens to communicate their ideas verbally and in writing, while freedom of assembly lets them publicly express a common interest. The right to petition allows citizens to point out to the government where it did not follow the law, to seek changes, as well as damages for their missteps
“Liberty is to faction – [political parties or movements] what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires,” said James Madison, the principal framer of the Constitution. “But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.” (2)
Robust debate is essential to our form of government, a Constitutional Republic. Without robust debate cigarette ads would still air on TV. Without robust debate Doctors would still be recommending certain cigarettes in TV ads. Without robust debate women could not own property. Without robust debate women would not have the right to Vote.
Let’s shut down enforced silence and return to honest robust debates.
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