Second in a series on the assault on Free Speech.
Let’s start with a premise. The US Constitution does not guarantee the right to anyone to not be offended. In fact, if anything it ensures our freedom to offend one another in the free exercise of speech and religion. There are exceptions, of course, and some of them are quite legitimate while others that have wormed their way into our laws are clearly inspired by a desire to control public discourse and this is always dangerous.
For those who may not have ever bothered to read it, this is what the First Amendment actually says:
“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 language is simple and unambiguous, but God bless the lawyers, we have mountains of case law parsing and speculating just what it is supposed to mean. In doing so they have twisted and turned and bent and turned inside out this basic freedom until it has become a mere shadow of what it was intended to be.
There are many things that offend me, just as I am sure there just as many if not more that offend you. And that’s okay because nowhere in the First Amendment does it soften the idea by saying “unless it hurts someone’s feelings or makes them feel bad or is unpopular or not approved by self appointed elitist guardians of the public domain.”
Some of this hypersensitivity on the part of the perpetually offended is silly and would be laughable if it were not so dangerous to the liberties we cherish. For example I have never understood why atheists get worked up over religious displays such as a cross, Star of David, Menorah or Nativity scene in public. If atheists don’t believe in God then why are they so traumatized by references to what they proclaim to be a fairy tale?
Another place that has become a hotbed of hyperventilation is the college campus. The mere announcement that a conservative speaker has been engaged to give a talk is enough to touch off the wailing, whining and whimpering along with threats, intimidation, and all too often, violence. If there is anywhere that diversity of opinion and vigorous debate should have a home it should surely be the very places that aspire to higher learning. When only one point of view is tolerated that is not learning it is indoctrination.