THE FIRST AMENDMENT
“Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
What exactly are the limits to free speech, anyway? This amendment forbids the
government from making any law that prohibits it. The debate against this will
rage on forever, even judges can’t agree.
One of the big things that cause argument is people suing publishers and editors
for all kinds of things. We need to remind these folks that the First Amendment is
a man-made law, not something that is God-made and perfect in all situations, it
does have it’s limits. Our founding fathers wouldn’t mind if we drew the line at a
book that gives instructions on how to commit murder.
There have been many songs that talk about violence against the police. A man
from Texas claimed that the lyrics from Tupac Shakur’s “2Pacalypse Now”
inspired him to murder a deputy sheriff. But Tupac’s song wasn’t a how-to on
killing police, with explicit instructions. There is a thick line that falls between a
work of art that depicts or describes an act of violence and a book that gives
advice on murder.
Anyone with even a shred of common sense knows that you can’t say or write
anything about any subject at any time you please. That’s why newspapers and
magazines across the country go through a self-censorship process that’s stricter
than any amendment would impose. Unlike some people, most editors and
publishers know that the First Amendment’s forbidding government from making
a new law impinging on freedom of speech doesn’t mean that private individuals
can’t sue you. One judge might throw their cases out, another might rule for the
bailiffs. Printing something that’s simply offensive may be protected under our
Bill of Rights. But that has never stopped individuals from suing them. I saw
keep on, if the congress feels that strongly about our rights, so be it. But we need
more people to stop them from getting out of hand.