28 December 2013

Free speech and other things.

I've written quite a lot about the intersection of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Including on a related subject, the likely SCOTUS rulings impacting the legality of marriage rights applying to homosexual couples. 

To repeat the essential point: people telling you that your beliefs are flawed, impractical, immoral, or otherwise critical of them is not the same as the government preventing you from practicing those beliefs. Nor is such coercive pushback the same as a "chilling" effect when, say, an employer fires someone for statements that are likely unpopular under that directive. As we saw with the same kerfuffle over Chik-Fil-A and the reactions now of various companies and advertisers to the Great American Waterfowl Scenario, there are lots of places in the market, and other employers might not care or may actively support the voicing of certain unpopular views. These are not that unpopular of views even, a large plurality of Americans share the core view being expressed that homosexuality is to be deemed a sin, and thereby a wrongful action on some level. I do not find their reasoning or evidence persuasive that it need be punished or held to a lesser legal standard, but we cannot exactly hand wave away the multitudes and they will maintain their controversial stance on this issue for at least the better part of the next decade (at which point the demographics of aging will make it less of an issue in polite conversation, public debate, and political footballs).

What interested me more than the bizarre conflation of free expression with the right to a particular platform to make that expression (eg, no one has a right to a TV show), was the bizarre conflation that somehow this was at all a Constitutional question, and by extension, that there were Constitutional claims being made by people who hold a much lower esteem to the Constitution when it (actually) accounts for other rights and values as though there were some kind of "we love this document more!" contest being run. Because in my somewhat outsider perspective politically, I'd have to say that much of the time, both sides hate the document for the inconveniences it presents to the agendas they would enact. Or blatantly ignore it and enact said agendas anyway. Possibly one side hates more of the document. I might concede this at least (and I might note it's usually the right that has a disdain for the 14th amendment, judicial independence, and basically any amendment after the 2nd, plus sometimes the 1st). But neither side of debates is immune to it and both sides too often use the document as some kind of talisman rather than an interpretative basis for what sorts of laws are justified on moral and efficacy grounds.

There's two rather obvious places this intersects most often: gun control and abortion. In both cases, the opposing views take a position that effectively wills away the constitutional interpretations of the other side as completely irrelevant, despite sometimes long-standing legal precedents and rulings and often decades if not centuries of political philosophy written on related subjects from which to draw upon these distinct schools of thought and practice. I intend to write at length on each such that one can select their interest of outrage or vigorous nodding along from here. The curious angle though is the defense of "liberty" being used as a cause while often ignoring what those guaranteed liberties are or that opposing sides in a controversial issue present arguments also based upon essential liberties.
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