Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trump and Republicans Are Threatening the First Amendment

Amendment I
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.
As entertaining* as Trump's Press Conference last Thursday may have been, it and recent actions of Republican officials are evidencing serious threats to the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Not all the fault lies on the Right, the Left in certain college campuses have restricted the expression of views of unpopular right-wingers. As obnoxious as they may be, all voices should be heard. And the voices restricted at some campuses are still loud and clear in many other fora.

But let's address the issues of Trump and his party.
1. "No law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"
Let's leave aside the difficult controversies of separation of church and state for the time being and concentrate on just a couple of issues, the Muslim ban, and the increase in violent acts toward certain minority religions.

Rudy Giuliani spilled the beans by opening mouth, inserting foot, when he bragged to a reporter that Trump had come to him for advice on how to make a "Muslim ban" legal. Yeah. The Courts aren't stupid. As currently drafted, the ban is clearly intended to limit Muslims from entering the country. There is a new proposal to refine the order. We'll see if it passes constitutional muster and able to target Muslims without doing it in an obvious way.

Trump is frequently asked about the upswing in violence and threats against Muslims and Jews. He usually deflects the question bragging about his electoral win or claiming victimization for being the least prejudiced person on the face of the earth. In the recent press conference, he grew hostile and defensive towards the Jewish reporter pressing him on the question of anti-Semitic violence. It appears that Trump is very careful not to antagonize the big support he has among the "alt-right" or white-supremacists who generally are anti-Semitic.

These are clear and present threats against religious freedom in our country.
2. "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press"
Trump's whole shtick is is to make the free press look bad. They certainly have their troubles, but it's out of the free market place of ideas that democratic republican governments are to flourish. Trump doesn't seem to want that. He recently tweeted:
Trump is entitled to express his opinion as much as the next idiot or purvey of fake news. And while there are only a few instances of limiting press access or denying credentials to certain, less-favored reporters or organizations and no outright censorship, these authoritarian views are not healthy to the free exchange of ideas no matter how wrong the ideas may be. And facts are facts. They can be checked and rechecked. Most are even on video now and can be played and re-played. Even if photos and videos can be doctored, there is no over-arching power or conspiracy (yet) that can control the free expression of ideas in the United States. Still, what we do have is a man sitting in the highest office of the land, sworn to uphold the Constitution, who at frequent opportunities denigrates the important First-Amendment protected institution of a Free Press [Media].

Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, both going down in disgrace, learned that it was not politically wise to make an enemy of the press. Sure, it wins you support among some people, but the press still wields great power and can bring down presidents and lesser men and women. This battle is not over and my bet is on the media out-lasting the negative views of Trump in the marketplace of ideas.

3. "or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Trump continues his obsessions with crowd-sizes and electoral-votes (as opposed to popular vote which he lost by a significant, legal, and un-fake amount). But it's the Republicans in Congress that are now inhibiting the people's rights to peaceably assemble and petition the Government. I've been calling my Congressional Delegation (outside of business hours as I'm a federal employee) and have left a couple of messages, but for the most part, their voice-mail boxes are full and not taking any messages. I have also emailed.

The worst of it is an apparent campaign to discredit public assembly and redress of grievances by avoiding town halls. Utah Congressman, Jason Chaffetz, has declared with no evidence, that protesters at a recent town hall meeting were out-of-state paid protesters. Although it's hard to prove a negative, there have been numerous reports of people involved in that meeting that the accusation is completely false and offensive. Sure, some of the crowd was a bit noisy, but the televised event showed that many were able to present their questions and concerns and the Congressman was perfectly able to dodge and weave as a skilled politician does. There was no violence or threat of violence. Nor was it any more raucous than the nosy protesters against President Obama policies during the height of the tea-party movement.

Having marched myself in support of Refugees a couple of weeks ago, I can personally testify that I was not paid, my daughter was not paid, and we didn't see any evidence that any one else was. We also saw no evidence of violence and only a very few signs with bad words against Trump well within First Amendment protections.

The First Amendment will survive and Trumpism will fail. And we must be vigilant to ensure that truth, justice, and the American way will win in the end.

Young girl, non-paid, non-threatening, quietly and respectfully asking Rep. Chaffetz at town hall meeting,
"Do you believe in Science? Because I do." Chaffetz failed to answer.
*For entertainment value, check these out:
Jimmy Fallon
Stephen Colbert
Seth Meyers
Trevor Noah
[likely more to follow]

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