Poll: Americans Want Limits to Free Speech

News: US News
by Rodney Pelletier  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 24, 2019   

First amendment is outdated and hate speech should be punished

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new poll by the Campaign for Free Speech reveals over half of Americans believe the First Amendment is outdated and should be rewritten.

It goes on to reveal that younger people, ages 21–38, believe more strongly than older age groups the U.S. Constitution should be rewritten because it "goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America."

More than 54% of people in that age group believe imprisonment is an appropriate punishment for hate speech.

Sixty-two percent of millennials agree the "government should be able to take action against newspapers and TV stations that publish content that is biased, inflammatory, or false," with almost 50% advocating for imprisonment.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says:

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.

Free speech advocate and correspondent for One America News Network (OAN) Jack Posobiec tells Church Militant, "The First Amendment exists precisely because it is not supposed to be up for debate which speech we allow and which speech we restrict. "

Posobiec continues, "If it were repealed, and this would be a repeal, it would fundamentally destroy the right of free speech in America, the only country in the world that truly upholds freedom of speech as a matter of law," adding, "Politicians would be able to silence whoever they wanted at the click of a button."

The poll also reveals that 80% of respondents didn't understand the First Amendment, believing, "The First Amendment allows anyone to say their opinion no matter what, and they are protected by law from any consequences of saying those thoughts or opinions."

In 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Matal v. Tam that so-called hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, declaring, "[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment."

The court continues, "Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express 'the thought that we hate.'"

Justice Anthony Kennedy noted:

A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government's benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.

Bob Lystad, executive director of the Campaign for Free Speech, called the poll's results "extraordinary," adding, "Our free speech rights and our free press rights have evolved well over 200 years, and people now seem to be rethinking them."

Nadine Strossen, the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims in her book Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship comments that hate speech laws are almost always vague, noting they "all center on concepts for subjective judgments, starting with the very concept of 'hate' itself. … Once government is authorized to suppress speech because of a feared harmful tendency or because of its disfavored, disturbing viewpoint, government has largely unfettered censorial power."

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