Tonight’s Civics Lesson: ‘Free Speech’ Does Not Protect You From Speech You Dislike

You may meet a conservative who says something like, “Protesters are infringing my First Amendment rights.” For the sake of tonight’s civics lesson, let’s say this is in the context of protesters at a Donald Trump rally.

Stop and think about that statement for a moment. It requires a special brand of self-righteousness. Because how can a fellow citizen infringe your free speech rights?

I guess if you believe a protester is infringing your free speech, you must also believe your free speech is more important. Rather than recognize their right to free speech, instead you are labeling it an infringement of your rights. That must mean you believe your speech overrules their speech. Well, at least that’s the only way I can make any “sense” of this hamfisted logic.

But don’t take my word for it, because it’s not my opinion. The last say on this issue is the actual text of the First Amendment, which unequivocally states your free speech is protected from government censorship, but it remains mute on the issue of speech you dislike.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In other words, government cannot pass a law curtailing the exercise of free speech, and nowhere within that text does it protect your ears from receiving the sound waves of a protest you disagree with.

That concludes tonight’s civics lesson.

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Election 2016GovernmentHuman Rights

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