Constitutional Freedoms United States of America

During the recent past I have been made aware of High-Tech companies, such as Facebook, Goggle, Twitter, etc. being more and more aggressive with censoring user content posted on their platforms. They seem to have taken it upon themselves to police their platforms beyond reasonable levels of accepting unpopular points of view and minority opinions. They claim to have some special knowledge of what are proper "NORMS" on the Internet. I, for one, reject their claim to specific official knowledge!

United States Constitution

Bill of Rights—Amendment I

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.

The Issue

Since drafted over two hundred (200) years ago, many reasonable arguments on the meaning of the First Amendment about religion, free speech and assembly were voiced and written. I do not claim the definitive judgement of what is proper and what is not proper! I suggest you seek your own understanding. I arrived at my understanding of what the Constitution authors meant through multiple sources, both oral and written. I invite you to do the same.

I welcome you to view My Brief Analysis and use the links I provide at the bottom of this document to explore your own understanding. You will quickly learn there is no shortage of web sites to visit and hard-edged arguments to read. Please spend some time on the web sites that present a balanced point of view. Also, use a search engine to find your own sites. CAUTION: Be suspicious of any sites the search engine recommends! Use the Bill of Rights—Amendment I and your personal judgement of right and wrong!

My Brief Analysis

Freedom of Speech

Facebook has taken the role of policing "political lies" and removing them from the user's site. Twitter decides which user account to block using their own criteria of what is acceptable. Goggle removes videos they deem unacceptable.

These actions are acceptable when they fall within the United States Constitution definition of "acceptable" freedom. But read their web site user policies. They claim the right to do as they please!

A Learned Legal Opinion

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., unanimous Supreme Court opinion, Schenck v. United States, (1919).

In My Humble Opinion

"You can't yell 'fire' in a crowded theater", is the most often used misquoted phrase on this point of view. This case before the court was not about yelling fire. Justice Holmes used the phrase to illistrate speech about resisting the government draft during WWI not covered by the First Ammendment. The opinion's most famous and most often quoted passage was this:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. ... The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree (emphasis mine).

The court held the speech to be extreme as to create a clear and present danger. The phrase "shouting fire in a crowded theater" has since become a popular metaphor for dangers or limitations of free speech. The words themselves are not the problem; the resulting action caused by the words used must NOT break any legimate ordinance or law.

In Brandenburg v. Ohio, (1969), the Supreme Court established that speech advocating illegal conduct is protected under the First Amendment unless the speech is likely to incite "imminent lawless action." In effect this overturned Schenck v. United States, (1919).

In short, you can say anything you want, but you can be held responsible and liable for anything you say.

Things to Consider on Speech

While weighing the significance of what can be leagally said, consider the following queries.

  • How can speech that does no harm to anyone or does not create danger be censored?
  • Should the battle flag of the Civil War Conferderate Army be banned from display?
  • ... etc.

Freedom of Religion

What Separation of Church and State? The establishment clause is not a prohibition on religion. It specifically prohibits congress from making law to identify a particular religion as the official, state religion. How does this clause separate the church and the state?

A Learned Legal Opinion

The establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.—Hugo Black, Majority opinion, Everson v Board of Education (1947)

In My Humble Opinion

Everything US Supreme Court Justice Black put forth in the previous quote seems reasonable and appropriate for a society wanting freedom of and from religion. Is there any inconsistency with his quote and what anyone can think was the intent of the Bill of Rights? I think not! I believe our society is correctly focused on free choice of religion, speech, writing and any activity of expression in the public domain.

A Learned Legal Opinion

In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state. —Hugo Black, Everson v Board of Education (1947)

In My Humble Opinion

The five (5) simple words, separation between church and state, in the preceding quote from Thomas Jefferson have been used for decades by numerous activists to promote their agenda.

These five (5) simple words, synergism among church and state, are rooted in thought from another of our founding fathers, John Adams. He points out a different indubitable characteristic of church and state.

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other. —John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.

Things to Consider on Religion

While weighing the significance of this wall of seperation, consider the following queries.

  • How can anyone justify this phrase is a reason to prohibit a nativity scene placed on public grounds?
  • Why is it reasonable to allow chaplain access to United States armed forces personnel?
  • How is it reasonable to have In God We Trust on our official currency?
  • Why is there a prayer at the beginning of our legislative sessions?
  • Why is Moses sculpted on the United States Supreme Court building?
  • ... etc.

Freedom of Assembly

Things to Consider on Assembly

While weighing the significance of preventing assembly, consider the following queries.

  • Given legitimate permit requirements, can any jurisdiction prevent assembly for any cause?
  • During the Wuhan China Coronavirus pandemic, why did local police issue citations to people in their cars while attending religious services?
  • ... etc.

Links

Ponder the preceding and other facets of the issue while using the following links. There is no particular order or intentional bias to the links in my list. Feel free to comment via e-mail.