It greatly alarms me that Americans' constitutional right of freedom of speech is being squeezed out of our culture.
Several years ago, I watched then-"20/20" correspondent Diane Sawyer interview Saddam Hussein, who was dictator of Iraq at the time. She respectfully confronted him for the atrocities and executions he used as punishments for people who merely spoke out against him, his rule or his politics. Surprisingly naive of America's constitutional basis, Saddam asked, "Well, what happens to those who speak against your president?" (He clearly was expecting that such speech was also a crime in the U.S. and punishable by law.) Shocked by his sheer ignorance of the U.S. -- and somewhat at a loss for words herself -- Diane quipped back in answering his question, "They host television talk shows!" Saddam's facial expression revealed that he was totally confused by her answer.
Sounds so far-out, doesn't it? Offensive speech being punishable by law? But it might not be that far off for America, especially if the course of free speech continues on its present track -- a path of progressive restrictions, both from our government and our culture.
For example, presently bill S. 909 is on the fast track through the Senate, poised under the guise of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. While the bill purports to target crimes of brutality, not speech, once enacted, local justices could expand its interpretive enforcement to encompass a wider meaning than originally conceived. In the end, it could not only criminalize opinions (an unconstitutional act) but also provide elevated protection to pedophiles.
If our policymakers understood and followed the constitutional government our Founders laid down for us, they never would advocate any so-called hate crimes bill. As Rep. Ron Paul once wrote: "Hate crime laws not only violate the First Amendment, they also violate the Tenth Amendment. Under the United States Constitution, there are only three federal crimes: piracy, treason, and counterfeiting. All other criminal matters are left to the individual states. Any federal legislation dealing with criminal matters not related to these three issues usurps state authority over criminal law and takes a step toward turning the states into mere administrative units of the federal government."