The First Amendment is nearly the last portion of the Bill of Rights that courts seem to take seriously -- treating all the others as if the Founders were just kidding. The 9th and 10th went early. The 2nd has been nibbled away at. The 4th has become a bad joke under the last several Administrations. We abandoned the 6th somewhere out in Guantanamo Bay and the 5th has fallen victim to the drug war. (The 3rd is still alive and well, though!)
But today freedom of speech is under fire by those who increasingly claim [some] people have a right not to be offended that trumps free speech. Just who has this new right and who does not (certainly white males don't seem to have it) is unclear, as well as how one can ever enforce a standard where the victim has full discretion in determining if a crime has been committed, are left unexplained.
We have seen this theory of speech gaining adherents in Universities, for example, so while its continued gains are worrisome though not entirely unexpected. The one thing I never saw coming in the increasingly secular west was how much momentum anti-blasphemy laws would gain, and how much these laws would be pushed by the Left**.
Jonathon Turley has a good article on this topic in the Washington Post, as linked by Reason
Ken at Popehat has a roundup of creeping ant-blasphemy law over the last year (it is hard for me to even write that sentence seriously, it sounds so Medieval)
**It is in fact insane that the Left has so many people coming out in favor of protecting Islam from blasphemy. I know it is not everyone, but it is just amazing that a good number of people who call themselves liberal can excuse violence by a misogynist culture that is meant to suppress speech in the name of Gods and Churches. We have actual children of the sixties arguing that threats of violence are sufficiently good reason to suppress speech and that a religion that basically enslaves women needs laws that protect it from criticism (these same children of the sixties that all protested the Christmas bombings of Cambodia are also launching drone strikes willy nilly on civilians and claiming that the President can assassinate Americans solely on his say-so, but those are different topics.)
This all goes to prove my long-time conviction that the political parties have very little foundation in any real morality, and that they tend to simply take positions opposite of the other party. Since Conservatives staked out the anti-Islam position, the Left feels the need to find some way to be pro-Islam. Weird, but I can't think of any other explanation. The only exceptions to this rule are 1) expansions of Presidential power and 2) taking the drug war to new stupid extremes. Both parties seem unified in supporting these two things, at least when their guy is in office.
I am a bit late on this, but this is from Jonathon Turley in the USAToday:
Around the world, free speech is being sacrificed on the altar of religion. Whether defined as hate speech, discrimination or simple blasphemy, governments are declaring unlimited free speech as the enemy of freedom of religion. This growing movement has reached the United Nations, where religiously conservative countries received a boost in their campaign to pass an international blasphemy law. It came from the most unlikely of places: the United States.
While attracting surprisingly little attention, the Obama administration supported the effort of largely Muslim nations in the U.N. Human Rights Council to recognize exceptions to free speech for any "negative racial and religious stereotyping." The exception was made as part of a resolution supporting free speech that passed this month, but it is the exception, not the rule that worries civil libertarians. Though the resolution was passed unanimously, European and developing countries made it clear that they remain at odds on the issue of protecting religions from criticism. It is viewed as a transparent bid to appeal to the "Muslim street" and our Arab allies, with the administration seeking greater coexistence through the curtailment of objectionable speech. Though it has no direct enforcement (and is weaker than earlier versions), it is still viewed as a victory for those who sought to juxtapose and balance the rights of speech and religion.
I continue to be confused why the Left in this country is so absolutely hostile to Baptists in Alabama but are so deferential to Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Is it simply because one group makes credible threats of violence while the other does not?
Via Jonathon Turley in the USAToday (via Cathy Young)
Despite my agreement with Alito on many issues,
I believe that he would be a dangerous addition to the court in already
dangerous times for our constitutional system. Alito's cases reveal an
almost reflexive vote in favor of government, a preference based not on
some overriding principle but an overriding party.
In my years as an academic and a litigator, I
have rarely seen the equal of Alito's bias in favor of the government.
To put it bluntly, when it comes to reviewing government abuse, Samuel
Alito is an empty robe.
It is at times like this that I find the confirmation process's excessive fixation on abortion to be tremendously irritating. Alito's judicial philosophy vis a vis executive power is much, much more relevant to the nation and the vitality of the Constitution than is his opinions on Roe v. Wade, particularly given that every President tries to increase the power of the executive branch, but they tend to be most successful in times of war and crisis, which is exactly the times the Court needs to be most vigilant about chopping them back (this is my executive branch as kudzu political theory). And don't even get me started on Joe Biden using 27 of his 30 minutes to listen to himself talk, further demonstrating that he learned how to ask questions from Sean Hannity.
Update: I should have linked to this past post, which humorously explains the fixation on abortion.