Wick Communications

Congress shall make no law…

In journalism on February 5, 2010 at 9:36 am

On a whim – couldn’t tell you why – I ran “First Amendment” through the Google News wringer. I was sort of surprised to see the amount of debate currently raging over what can seem a rather dusty, arcane bit of historic dogma. The Bill of Rights is utterly alive right here and right now.

  • In the Feb. 4 edition of the Spokane Spokesman Review, reader Justin Stormo-Gipson writes,The Supreme Court has handed down one of the most controversial decisions in my lifetime.” He’s referring to the Court’s ruling that paves the way for greater corporate influence in elections. Corporate interests had couched their election contributions case as a First Amendment issue…
  • In the CBS news blog, I found Justice Clarence Thomas explaining that decision to college students. “If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he said. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association. But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?”
  • In New York, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the city did not violate the First Amendment by limiting the number of billboards along its roadways and parks.
  • In California and Colorado, a federal law against lying about military medals is facing First Amendment challenges. Lawyers in both cases have made similar arguments against the Stolen Valor Act, saying that lying is protected by the First Amendment unless it does real harm.
  • You can’t even escape First Amendment questions when you turn on the television for Sunday’s Super Bowl. College football sensation Tim Tebow and CBS have come under fire for plans to air an anti-abortion advertisement during the big game. Some say Tebow has a right to such speech and that it’s protected under the First Amendment.

Here’s the takeaway, for me anyway. The First Amendment is a vital, necessary and living document that is constantly evolving and continually under attack. It is a bulwark against tyranny. And that is a concept that can seem as distant as the Revolutionary War. At least until you Google “First Amendment.” Then you realize it is constantly with us.

Clay

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