The End of the First Amendment

News from Chicago:
The officer who handcuffed them is recorded on camera warning members of the media that their First Amendment rights could be terminated.  "Your First Amendment rights can be terminated if you're creating a scene or whatever," the officer said.  When asked how they were creating a scene, the officer said, "Your presence is creating a scene."
From the District of Columbia:
HR 347 was recently signed into law by President Obama. This statute had wide support amongst both parties of Congress. In essence, it criminalizes disruptive behavior upon government grounds, at specially designated national events (Super Bowl, nominating conventions, etc.) and anywhere that Secret Service is protecting “any” person.
Since all of the presidential candidates are now receiving Secret Service protection, that means no "disruptive behavior" anywhere near anywhere that anyone running for president might be speaking.

Thus the freedoms of speech, assembly and the press.  As Elise notes, we're also seeing an end to the freedom of religious expression insofar as it pertains to how one lives one's life, as apart from merely how one prays in private.
The issue is so clearly one of violating the First Amendment that I am unable to find any common ground with anyone who doesn’t see that. We have nothing to say to each other on this topic. And their belief either that this does not violate the First Amendment or that violating the First Amendment is acceptable is so inexplicable that we don’t really have anything to say to each other about anything else related to the Constitution or governance in general. 
Furthermore, it doesn’t matter how this situation comes out. Even if the Administration backs off completely on the contraception mandate for all employers, it’s too late. Even if the Supreme Court rules that the mandate is unconstitutional, it’s too late. That a President of the United States believes it is acceptable to simply ignore the First Amendment is a sea change in our form of government. Perhaps if the Administration had established this mandate and every single person and institution other than President Obama and Secretary Sebelius had screamed bloody murder, I could believe that we had, in a moment of national inattention, elected as President one of the only two people in the United States who consider the Bill of Rights irrelevant. But that wasn’t the case; Obama and Sebelius’ attitude toward the Constitution is clearly so widespread that there is no going back.

We'll have to decide if Elise is right that the First cannot be saved.  If so, we'll have to move on to the Second.  That is not a light matter, not at all:  but consider her argument.  There is very widespread support for simply compelling people to violate their beliefs:  and not merely to fail to do something their faith says is right (which might apply to human sacrifice, in some religions), but positively to do something their faith tells them is wrong.

The only obvious parallel lies in the draft, which compels military service from all citizens.  America's history of support for conscientious objectors is mixed, but has generally found a way to recognize and offer alternatives to most who felt such objections.  It's unclear why war should be an easier place for such objectors than the provision of contraception or abortifacients, the need for which is debatable rather than existential.


bthun said...

As M'lady Cass recently noted, and I paraphrase, there are times where my anger/frustration with current events preempts my desire to comment in full on the condition of the Republic.

I will say that I still consider my oaths to be in full force. And given the number of kindred spirits I suspect are lurking in this Republic, I doubt whether or not a "President of the United States believes it is acceptable to simply ignore" or any individual or group will be able to fundamentally change the Constitution/BOR via extra-Constitutional methods. Certainly not without all Hell on earth breaking loose. So, I'm more or less watching the Cur closely, and waiting...

230 days and a wakeup.

P.S. Midway USA is having a clearance sale... =;^}

Tom said...

Well, the Commerce Clause went down more than 60 years ago, so it's happened before.

Overcoming the limits of the Constitution is progress, to them.

bthun said...

"Well, the Commerce Clause went down more than 60 years ago, so it's happened before."

Good point. The Supremes will let us know, and right soon, whether the original intent of the Commerce Clause is to be further stretched all to the domain of Hades, or if the proverbial pendulum might have reached the apex of it's leftward swing.

There is one small consolation IMHO, and that is the boldness with which the Pols have recently revealed their designs. Many of those who were by nature, politically apathetic, have been roused.

This coming decade seems to me to be the point where push abuts shove and the citizens of this Republic must demand a reversal of the consolidation of central power over all aspect of their lives. Or we will go all in for a
feudal like caste system where the peasantry expects the Lords to protect and care for them as long as the peasantry obediently toils away at their assigned tasks.

We the people have a long, hard row to hoe if we hope to keep this Republic.

I am reminded of the New Hampshire state motto, and how the following ties in with it, For The Children.™

I guess after posting this comment, I should cook a few additional cups of coffee in the morning... For the two who will be on station in that black SUV parked in front of the Hun hovel.

BillT said...

"I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution." ---Then-candidate B. H. Obama, March 30, 2007.

Three lies for the price of one...

DL Sly said...

Well......he didn't say which Constitution.

Tom said...

bthun, A very long hard row indeed.

Ya know, I'd completely forgotten about the 10th amendment being pretty much negated as well.

Dad29 said...

There are many non-officers in the military (and retired) who have not taken the identical oath of officers, but who ALSO will not tolerate long this train of abuses...

Buy More Ammo!!

douglas said...

I'm sure you guys all know I'm basically in agreement with all of the above- but for the sake of argument- I think we can all agree that first amendment rights do have limits, and a police officer can be within his authority to give a lawful order for you to vacate your current position and move somewhere else. The questions here seem to be 'when?' and 'why?' From what I saw in the video, I could not say if there might have been cause for such an order to be given. There was none readily apparent. It's also clear the officer is a poster child for how not to engage the public as a police officer, which would hurt his cause even if he was acting within his authority responsibly in giving the order. So, let's say there was cause for the order to be given (questionable in actuality, but plausible)- besides the poor representation of police officers given here, would he then be violating your first amendment rights?

Grim said...

There is a difference between saying that there are limits or checks on a right, and saying that the right "may be terminated." The right of the hospital not to have its doors blocked is both a property right, and a rather significant public interest: so if the reporter is doing that, the police could legitimately have the power to say, "You must go to the other side of the street and stand on the public sidewalk, not here." That's different from "Your presence is creating 'a disturbance' and therefore your rights are void."

I would like to say that this is just a training issue, except that it lines up so nicely with the understanding of Congress and the President in passing this new law. Their understanding seems to be that people using 1A rights to create a disturbance that is inconvenient for the powerful lose their rights.

That's a problem; but maybe we could just avoid the powerful. There goes 'free assembly' and 'petition for redress of grievances,' but at least we'd only be losing part of the 1A instead of the whole thing. Yet then we have the government coming to us and telling us that we must ignore the commands of conscience in the free exercise of religion, and that in everyday life even when we are otherwise minding our own business... and now it's not clear just what of the 1A is left to protect.

douglas said...

Clearly the use of the language "may be terminated" was plain wrong- but I suspect that could as easily be that he doesn't know the difference semantically, as that he meant what he said.

Now, at "That's different from "Your presence is creating 'a disturbance' and therefore your rights are void." we're getting into the grey territory indeed- I'm sure we agree that if you are genuinely interfering with a police officer in the lawful and proper execution of his duties, you're violating your first amendment rights, but it seems that's the one that gets stretched (and broken) the most. When does that become an unlawful order, and how do we make that clear to all involved?

As for the new law, it's pretty much like the way the G20 protesters complain about the protest pens that are set up as the official locations allowed for protesting. It eventually gets to the question of is it even clear of violating the first amendment for local police to issue (and require) a permit to protest. I think there are reasons to say yes, but it's not much different (I think) from the law at issue here. Besides, I'm not sure how it changes the status quo as if you get up and disrupt a politician speaking by chanting or some such, you'll get escorted out eventually- is that unconstitutional too? I suspect that the only thing that's changing is the level of charge that can be brought, being raised from citation to misdemeanor.

Grim said...

It seems like we're stretching the principle quite a bit at this point. 'You can't protest in such a way as prevents the lawful event that others have come to see' is one thing; that covers protests in the hall. That was stretched to 'can't protest in such a way as creates an inconvenience for those attending the event'; and then to 'can't protest in sight of the event'; and now to "disruptive behavior" "anywhere" that the Secret Service is protecting "any" person.

How broadly is "anywhere" defined? Within a mile of such a person? Half a mile? In the same town? That's unclear, as is what constitutes "disruptive." The police will be asked by the powerful to push these very unclear limits, and they will likely agree to do it.

I favor limits on Phelps-type protests myself, but I think there is a 1A justification for that: there we are balancing the freedom of religion of the burial party with the freedom of speech of the protester. Here we have a 1A concern and a concern by powerful people not to have to deal with protests; and that's not a concern of the same type. If your concern is for the police -- that is, you don't want the police to be put in a bad position -- we shouldn't give the government this authority. Then the police cannot be asked to do what they ought not to do.