Charles Snelling — Free speech applies to political ads

April 3, 2010

Not long ago, The Morning Call had a Your View by Malcolm J. Gross and Robert K. Young castigating the U.S. Supreme Court for its decision on behalf of free speech. They joined President Barack Obama in their criticism of the court although at least Gross and Young were more civil and not as rude and inappropriate as the president was during his State of the Union message to Congress.

What the Supreme Court found was that corporations and labor unions were legal fictitious people and were entitled to free political speech. The court did not do anything to permit foreign corporations or foreign-owned corporations to exercise free political speech, contrary to false accusations made by the president in his address.

Actually, the Supreme Court’s decision was wise and appropriate, repairing serious damage done to our democracy by McCain-Feingold campaign spending rules.

For example, the rules were so wrong-headed, so complex and so interpreted that people like archliberal currency speculator George Soros, billionaire head of MoveOn.org, and his ilk, could and did spend hundreds of millions of dollars on attack political speech, to which the victims of these massive political attacks could not respond.

How the world has changed. Years ago it was the liberals who defended free speech. Nowadays, the opposite is true.

All over our college campuses there are attacks on free speech in the name of ”political correctness” and not ”hurting anyone’s feelings.”

I belong to an organization called FIRE — Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — that is a vitally needed defender of free speech, which is under assault in many if not most colleges and universities.

Readers may remember the infamous order at Lehigh University after 9/11 that the American flag would not be displayed on the college’s buses.

Nor is this sort of outrage a rarity. Just last week, the Duke University Women’s Center canceled with virtually no notice an event scheduled by Duke Students for Life simply because the center didn’t want this pro-life group to have freedom of expression.

FIRE raised a public stink and Duke backed up, telling the pro-life group that ”mistakes were certainly made that should not have occurred” and that the Women’s Center had ”taken steps to ensure that such an incident would not happen again.” Now let’s be clear on one thing: I am a woman’s pro-choice advocate and my wife and I were some of the founders of Planned Parenthood of Eastern Pennsylvania. It makes no difference that I disagree with the viewpoint of the pro-life students. Their right to advocate their point of view should be beyond dispute, especially at a place like Duke.

FIRE has won scores of federal lawsuits against colleges and universities that have punished and sanctioned constitutionally protected free speech by both faculty and students.

The purpose of these proven and convicted cases of violation of the Constitution is, in the most part, the desire on the part of college and university administrators to indoctrinate students with liberal ideology and to prevent contrary views. These administrators would allow no open debate on their campuses if the ideas expressed were not in keeping with their views, or were unpleasant or even wrong. I am not in agreement with many things that some people say on campuses and elsewhere, but I will, as has been declared by our forebears, defend to the death their right to free speech, right or wrong.

This simply must be so to preserve our democracy. The revolution, our revolution that made us a nation, was based on the writings, the thinking and the leadership of men who were truly in disagreement with the prevailing views.

Galileo was almost burned at the stake and was imprisoned for telling the truth — that the earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around.

Over and over, unpopular ideas have proved to be correct and conventional wisdom wrong. The only way, in a democracy, issues can be settled is to allow everyone to say their piece and let the public decide.

In the modern world of television, newspapers and magazines, this means being able to present your views in advertisements.

Then, in a democracy, the people will decide. Preserving our freedoms, our freedom of free speech, especially, is the only way to preserve our democracy. The Supreme Court was right.

Schools: Duke University Cases: Duke University: Women’s Center Cancels ‘Motherhood’ Event