05.30.2014 2

Senate Democrats Declare War on First Amendment

By Rick Manning

“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 United States Constitution

Harry Reid and Chuck SchumerThe once revered First Amendment to the United States Constitution has come under unprecedented attack by Democratic Party elected officials, and the Obama Administration itself over the course of the past five years. Now, 41 Senate Democrats have come completely out of the closet in proposing that the Constitution be changed to reflect their warped view.

The First Amendment states, “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.”

As the name says, the First Amendment was the first of ten changes (known as the Bill of Rights) to the United States Constitution, ratified by the states shortly after the Constitution itself was ratified.

In order to understand why the Democrats attempt to change the right to the free exercise of speech is so misguided, one has to understand why the protection of free speech was carved out of the Constitution in the first place.  The little read Preamble to the Bill of Rights provides the key reasoning behind the list of individual and state protections that followed stating, “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

The Constitutional framers, and particularly those who worried that the newly created federal government would grow too powerful overwhelming individual liberties, amended the document to include specific areas that the federal government was not allowed to intrude upon.  The free exercise of speech was one of these enumerated individual rights.

Inherent in this right is the ability to participate in the political process as fully and completely as one desires.  After all, a free speech right that allows one “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” must also include the right to change the composition of that government as part of the process.

And that fundamental principle is where Senate Democrats have launched their attack.

Senate Joint Resolution 19 would allow Congress to restrict that very right to change the composition of government by specifically conveying to those very elected officials authority over campaign spending under the guise of a newly created principle of political equality for all.

This proposed Constitutional amendment falls short in at least two areas.

The most basic is that it puts control into the hands of government the means to redress grievances with that government, effectively demolishing the right of redress.

Secondly, the fine sounding principle of political equality for all, actually means political activity for none, as it defines the right to redress down to the lowest common desire of political involvement.  Under the presumption of this new political equality within the Constitution, a businessman whose wealth was being confiscated through regulatory or direct legislative action would have no more opportunity to spend his fortune protecting himself against government excesses, than that which a homeless person on the streets of Los Angeles could afford.

The so-called “fundamental principle of political equality for all” strips away the means to redress grievances with the government by allowing Congress to take away your means of exercising those grievances if everyone does not have those same means.

That is why the 41 Senate Democrats who would imbed into our Constitution this new construction of free speech actually aim to destroy it.

Of course, to be fair, if you have the means or power to control a media company, your right to speech would be protected.  After all, Senate Democrats would never dream of declaring the millions of dollars worth of free political advantage they receive from the pages and airwaves controlled their wealthy benefactors to be subject to the new “political equality” principle.

Fortunately, it takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, plus ratification by three-fourths of the states to amend the Constitution, so this attack on freedom will not win this year.  But with a majority of Senate Democrats in support of this direct assault on political speech, our nation is only one disastrous election cycle away from the wholesale stripping away of the right to dissent.

Rick Manning is the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for Americans for Limited Government

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