Weekly Feature

2011-12-08 / Letters to the Editor

Speech restriction risks adverse effects

I wanted to comment upon the Nov. 30 editorial regarding the decision not to pursue prosecution in the Jamey Rodemeyer case.

Did I actually read the editorial correctly when it stated, “Unfortunately making degrading and inappropriate comments to a person is not illegal”? Is the editorial staff of this newspaper, presumably a bastion against First Amendment infringement, serious?

Yes, particularly in the Rodemeyer case, offensive things were said. No, the freedom to speak, no matter how offensive the content, should not be denied or curtailed. Aside from the oft-cited “shouting fire in a theater” argument, the freedom to speak should be near absolute.

It should not be the prerogative of any individual, group or government to assume they are to be the arbiter of “right speak” and “right think.”

To assert that certain speech should be illegal is to toe the proverbial slippery slope. It is easy to argue for the restriction of prejudiced or bigoted speech. Unfortunately, once the precedent is established, it becomes that much easier to progressively erode more and more freedoms.

We start with a well-intentioned law against hate speech, and there comes a day when statements against the government or elected officials are legislated as an act of insurrection worthy of punishment.

If we, as individuals and as a society, are to enjoy these protected rights then we must also accept the reality that some will cause offense in their exercise of those rights.

Clint Eliason
Long Street
Clarence Center

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