There was no Constitution Minute last week because I was at a conservative conference in Michigan. While we were inside listening to the speakers, tires were slashed outside in the parking lot, cars with Trump bumper stickers being singled out. I came back from Michigan to news that Facebook banned Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, and other non-Left voices.
This is getting serious. While we are in a golden age of free speech in the courts with the Supreme Court issuing strong opinions like Citizens United and Janus, free expression in society overall is under attack like I’ve never seen before. The attacks are coming from several directions. In January, I told you about threats to free speech on college campuses; from the transgender pronoun police; from attempts to take banking services away from the NRA; from Google, YouTube, and other tech giants; and from Europe and the United Nations. [Constitution Minute, 1/27/19]
In April, I told you about Germany ratcheting up enforcement against so-called ‘hate speech’ online and new hate speech initiatives from the Attorneys General of Michigan and Minnesota that move in the same direction. [Constitution Minute, 4/14/19] The Michigan initiative includes a hate speech database to be maintained by the state civil rights agency that will collect remarks from individuals and groups for later use. This is a direct threat to free speech because hate speech, whether you like it or not, is protected under the First Amendment. Just think of the chilling effect on free expression in Michigan because now you have to worry about whether state bureaucrats will decide what you say is offensive and put you in their database.
The Michigan Attorney General’s office testified before a state legislative committee that they would not access the database in criminal hate crimes cases. But sharp legislators pointed out that enhanced hate crime penalties are a matter of proving intent and the database of prior remarks would most surely be mined for evidence of intent in criminal cases. The database will affect hate crimes cases from the charging decision all the way through to sentencing, the legislators pointed out. The fact that the Attorney General’s office would be so coy about this does not inspire confidence, especially when you consider the Attorney General herself led off her testimony with the correct but misleading statement her office did not have such a database. This was misleading because the database is at the civil rights agency, which she knows darn well. She also tried to square the circle that hate crime penalties do not punish people for what they think. Sure, and I’m the tooth fairy.
We have free speech under attack like never before and it’s metastasizing into governmental actions like the Michigan hate speech database. It’s become clear to me we’ve turned a corner in this country and our right to free expression is now in jeopardy. Therefore, I have decided to undertake a new project to push back on threats to free speech from the authoritarian Left, the Islamists, state bureaucrats with tunnel vision, and anyone else who would take away our First Amendment rights.
I will be using my Champions of the Constitution Grassroots Network to push back. We’re in 11 states and have been pushing back on attacks on the Constitution for the last year and a half. You are welcome to join. It doesn’t take a lot of time and will not pull you away from your other activist projects. I will also be collaborating with like-minded folks, for example, activists in Michigan who are trying to get their state civil rights agency brought before the same legislative committee to testify about their database.
I see that others are coming to similar conclusions, that it’s time to do something. Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots joined more than 400 scholars, writers, and group leaders in signing a joint statement in April calling for more protection for free speech on college campuses.
I applaud this and every other effort to protect free expression in this country. We live in a time when non-Left voices are being pushed to the margins. It’s not too hard to imagine a future where the authoritarian Left attempts to seize control of the Internet and talk radio to squelch non-Left voices entirely. At that point, they will not be content with slashing tires but will progress to slashing jugular veins. If you doubt me, read the blood-soaked history of the Left and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The time to act is now.