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Outlawing Opinion

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

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."

The limiting of free speech is happening through not only legal ends but also social avenues. It was tragic to watch at the recent White House Correspondents' Association dinner how the present administration provided the platform for and then laughed at a parade of mean-spirited, cruel jokes about Rush Limbaugh, which made fun of his history of addiction to painkillers, wished him kidney failure, and suggested he might have been the 20th hijacker involved in 9/11. Is that even funny? Despite the fact that I believe even this offensive language is protected by the First Amendment, is it the type of belittling humor we should expect at a White House function? When the feds seek to silence their critics through intimidation and social demise, have they not failed to properly lead a blended nation and uphold the heart of the Constitution? Mark my words that the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine -- which would subject talk radio, among other media, to government regulation -- is right around the corner.

Government isn't the only one restricting free speech. We recently witnessed many in our culture clamping down on that basic American right via the travesty of the response to Carrie Prejean's -- who is Miss California and the Miss USA runner-up -- giving her honest opinion when a question was posed by a judge during the Miss USA contest. As a result of her respectfully giving her personal convictions, she's been persecuted and even has received death threats from those who oppose her.

I don't care what your cause is. I don't care what your mission is. I don't care what the issue is. I don't care what your beliefs are. It is every American citizen's constitutional right to speak freely, without fear of repercussion. If the First Amendment is not there to protect anyone's offensive speech, then what type of speech is it protecting?

It's simply un-American and unconstitutional to impede, harass, threaten or persecute anyone who is guilty of nothing more than sharing his opinion or even exercising his right to vote. This is America, not Saddam's Iraq!

When free speech is restricted or punished, we can be certain that we've drifted from our roots. Isn't it time we returned home to the Constitution?

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