College sophomore would overturn First Amendment at URI

First Amendment in action at U of Rhode Island

First Amendment in action at U of Rhode Island.

Eric Casey, a sophomore at the U of Rhode Island (URI), is circulating a petition to overturn the First Amendment at the University of Rhode Island (URI).  Story here.  To make matters worse, Mr. Casey identifies himself as a history major on his Facebook page.  YIKES!  I posted this online response:

Mr. Casey’s conception of the First Amendment is fundamentally flawed.  More about that, but we must first acknowledge that his petition is partly accurate. Abortion pictures are “highly disturbing” (his words). That’s because abortion is an act of violence that kills a baby.

Mr. Casey says that he doesn’t want to violate the free-speech rights of the College Republicans (CRs), yet his petition demands that URI prevent speech that he finds non-compliant with “the principles of respect and human dignity.”  Of course, he says nothing about those whose speech promotes the dismembering and killing helpless preborn children whose only crime is to be unwanted.  Would Mr. Casey sign a petition to remove that speech as well?

Do you see where this is going?  Once it is determined that non-compliant speech may be censored, then it becomes a matter of whose speech is non-compliant whose is not.  You can be certain that Mr. Casey will insist that people like himself be in control of whose speech may be disallowed and whose may be heard.  In this kind of environment, you can count on hearing the full range of political thought, from the far left to the extreme far left.  Fortunately, the First Amendment protects us from his kind of tyranny.

Our founders said that “all men are created,” that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and that “among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  The First Amendment doesn’t “give” us the liberty to speak freely, because that right was ours already; the First Amendment merely recognizes a right that is “unalienable” because of our status as human persons.  Whether you believe in a Creator or some kind of natural law, it is clear that the same foundational principle that protects our speech from arbitrary power also protects our lives.  Mr. Casey shouldn’t be so quick to give that up.

In his petition, Mr. Casey demands that URI withhold funding from the CRs as one mechanism to regulate speech.  He should be aware that the University of Wisconsin (UW) recently earned the opportunity to pay $500,000 in legal fees because of similar viewpoint discrimination (www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/4328?).  At issue was discrimination in the allocation of student fees.

Back to the subject matter of the GAP display, I have a question for Mr. Casey: If abortion is such a great idea, why do pictures of it make you so angry?  And how can it be that showing a picture of a dead child is extreme (your word), but killing the child is not?

Our purpose is never to condemn anyone who has had an abortion. If you need healing from a past abortion or help with an unplanned pregnancy, visit www.OptionLine.org. For more information on abortion, www.AbortionNo.org.  For more on freedom of speech, www.theFire.org.

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2 Responses to “College sophomore would overturn First Amendment at URI”

  1. November 18th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Phil says:

    I’m very pro-life and believe abortion should be outlawed, but I want to play devil’s advocate here so that I can understand the law concerning free speech.

    If a group wanted to display posters of naked men and women to promote some cause could that be banned, or would they be allowed to have such posters because of free speech.


  2. November 18th, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Fletcher says:

    Phil, the First Amendment protections do not apply to certain kinds of speech. Examples of speech not protected by the First Amendment include fighting words, threats of violence, defamation, and obscenity.

    Commercial speech, usually in the form of advertising, enjoys some First Amendment protection, but not to the same degree as noncommercial forms of expression.

    Quoting from an online dictionary:

    The term obscene is applied to written, verbal, or visual works or conduct that treat sex in an objectionable or lewd or lascivious manner. Although the First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression, such constitutional protection is not extended to obscene works. To determine whether a work is obscene, the trier of fact applies the three-pronged guidelines established by the U.S. Supreme Court in miller v. california, 413 U.S. 15, 93 S. Ct. 2607, 37 L. Ed. 2d 419 (1973):
    (a) whether the “average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work depicting or describing sexual conduct when taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest…,
    (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
    (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
    (Source: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/obscene)

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