The First Amendment Has Never Been Outcome-Dependent
Glenn Greenwald has a really good take on this Citizens United campaign finance decision. The direction of my blogging sticks more to the post-evangelical related stuff, so I’ll just quote him:
More specifically, it’s often the case that banning certain kinds of speech would produce good outcomes, and conversely, allowing certain kinds of speech produces bad outcomes (that’s true for, say, White Supremacist or neo-Nazi speech, or speech advocating violence against civilians). The First Amendment is not and never has been outcome-dependent; the Government is barred from restricting speech — especially political speech — no matter the good results that would result from the restrictions. That’s the price we pay for having the liberty of free speech. And even on a utilitarian level, the long-term dangers of allowing the Government to restrict political speech invariably outweigh whatever benefits accrue from such restrictions.
Absolutely. It’s a discussion that I’ve had with several conservative Christians, ones who support “anti-obscenity” laws, and most seem open to my points. For many of them, the most persuasive example is of Canadian pastor Stephen Boissoin. For those who don’t know, he was prosecuted for “hate speech” for writing an anti-homosexual letter to a newspaper.* He was eventually acquitted, but for many Christians in America the entire story is a cautionary tale. I think more Christians are now willing to tolerate profanity in the public square if it allows them to freely express and promote their faith. Just so.
*I can’t stress enough the importance of this story to many evangelicals. I know of many men and women who, while disapproving of homosexuality, would tolerate its open practice but vote for Prop 8s and other anti-gay marriage bills because they fear their loss of freedom of religious expression. You could get quite a few more votes, gays, if you promise the evangelicals that their right to disapprove of your lifestyle would be untouched. Just sayin’…