"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."
--First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
"When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves."
--Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy
Justice Kennedy wrote the long overdue decision of the U.S. Supreme Court last week letting even corporations and labor unions advertise their political opinions. As if this were a free country.
Who says freedom of speech, even when bound and gagged in the name of "campaign finance reform," cannot be restored and invigorated? This election year, the American people will be able to hear from all sides even within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. Which are the bounds the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform and incumbent-protection act put on free speech -- and which a revamped Supreme Court now has lifted, hooray and Hallelujah!
Bradley Smith, a professor of law who fought the good fight for freedom of speech when he was on the Federal Election Commission, was one of those celebrating this overdue victory for basic principle. This ruling, he hoped, "marks an end to 20 years of jurisprudence in which the (Supreme Court) has provided less protection to core political speech than it has to internet pornography, the transmission of stolen information, flag burning, commercial advertising, topless dancing and burning a cross outside an African-American church."
The court may actually be getting back to protecting the essence of the First Amendment: free speech in a free country. No matter who is exercising the right to it -- even corporations, politicians and labor unions. And no matter when they choose to exercise it. Even just before an election, when you'd think freedom of speech should be most prized and protected. Let 'em all have their say. As the founders surely intended.
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