Freedom of speech applies to all
April 2, 2011
I remember, not very long ago, when I wrote a column detailing my opinion of a certain radio person, who shall remain nameless, and received overwhelming negative feedback — surprisingly from many in this area, as well. (Most of this columnist's "boo" mail usually comes from an Internet population.)
I remember it because there was an overwhelming misconception that I was implying that this person, or any other radio personality, should be censored and removed from the airwaves. Nothing could be further than the Constitutionally-grounded truth.
I'm addressing it because there seems to be a correlation between antisocial behavior on the part of radio persons, or for that matter television persons, and their accusations that their Constitutional rights are being violated.
Of course, none of the "boo" mail I received came from that nationally syndicated radio person; it was his fans who accused me of being unconstitutional.
But not very long after that, and in a completely unrelated incident, a well-known female psychologist of the airwaves, upon losing her radio slot, cried out that her rights to free speech were being taken away.
I don't even recall why that person suddenly fell from grace, but the accusation of rights violated holds no water, unless we admit that we live in a time and an era when people confuse their right to speak with the necessity that anyone listen.
One has the right to speak as one wishes; one does not have the right to be paid for that speaking. Therein lies the difference. In my original context, I never would urge that said radio personality, or any other obnoxious denizen of the airwaves (and there are quite a few) have their rights to speak taken away. I simply reminded readers that, if none listened, that speaking would eventually be without remuneration.
The freedom of religion comes under a similar rubric. When I teach a confirmation class (church membership for teens), the question invariably emerges — why are certain people allowed to practice certain types of faith? The answer, of course, is that assuming one is causing no harm, one can worship however one wishes, whomever one wishes. You just can't force anyone else to agree with you.
This column comes about from a need, on my part, to underscore the importance of the Constitution to our lives, and the need to hold our leaders accountable to it, not the other way around. As reprehensible as I personally find the Phelps cult from Kansas, and their actions, (especially as a veteran), I can understand why the Supreme Court ruled as it did.
Constitutionally, there would seem no option.