Nate Jackson / Jun. 18, 2019

SCOTUS: First Amendment Contradictions?

Two cases of leftists either suppressing or compelling speech illustrate a big battle.

These aren’t your grandfather’s liberals. That’s the 75,000-foot view of the modern Left, which has declared its primary mission to suppress disfavored free speech. Two seemingly unrelated Supreme Court cases illustrate what has become the great battle of the early 21st century.

First, The Washington Free Beacon reports, “The basic details of Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck are mundane. New York City designated Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), a private nonprofit corporation, operator of a public access channel. Respondents DeeDee Halleck and Jesus Papoleto Melendez produced a film critical of MNN, which MNN agreed to air. The corporation subsequently removed their film and suspended the pair, claiming that they had made threats against MNN employees. Halleck and Melendez sued, claiming that MNN had violated their free speech rights under the First Amendment.”

The broader implications are interesting. Does this provide a test case for how social media is governed under the First Amendment? In other words, can Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al. silence speech because they’re private companies not subject to the First Amendment?

Without answering those questions just yet, let’s turn to the more attention-getting Supreme Court case. The justices declined to hear the case of the Oregon bakers fined and put out of business for refusing to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. The Court did, however, give Melissa and Aaron Klein some help, vacating a lower-court ruling and the $135,000 fine against them while sending the case back for a rehearing in light of the SCOTUS decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Unfortunately, SCOTUS ruled fairly narrowly in that case — that Colorado officials were the ones unlawfully discriminating against the baker — leaving unanswered the fundamental question of whether a Christian baker or florist can be compelled to create works of art (speech) for weddings that violate their religious beliefs. Whether the lower court will read between the lines and reach the right conclusion on its second try is up for speculation.

On the one hand, we have private companies suppressing speech, while on the other we have private businesses compelled to make certain speech. In both, the authoritarian and totalitarian coercion is coming from one side: the Left. The specific First Amendment applications to private companies are not always clear, but what is plain as day is that the Left aims to constrain certain speech and compel other speech. In a nation built on the ideal of free speech, that’s a dangerous trend.

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