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They all line up behind The First

Whether watching the plight of Judith Miller or trying to ignore the ‘demonstrators,’ Corydon is thinking a lot about the First Amendment these days, and it’s all really confusing.
My father likes to say that he protects my First Amendment rights with his right to bear arms. However, when he feels compelled to fight social injustice, it’s with a letter to the editor of his local newspaper.
It’s the First Amendment for a reason.
I’m sure Dad knows that while arms may have ushered in freedom of speech, press and assembly, it’s the First Amendment that has since been used to protect all other freedoms, including those defined within it.
But Dad likes to tease. You see, it’s not just because I’m a journalist, but it’s also because I’m a Democrat and he is a Republican.
And why does that matter?
Somewhere along the way, the First Amendment became viewed as the turf of liberal Democrats, requiring Limbaugh-like agility to enter. And there is something to that.
An amazing 84 percent of reporters are Democrats while only about 42 percent of readers are Democrats, according to industry research. So, if Dad wants to tease his reporter-Democrat son, he slights the First Amendment.
I, however, never slight the antiquated Second Amendment, which was drafted to facilitate now-defunct militias.
(Just kidding, Dad.)
Let me assure you, when it’s time to get serious, Dad holds those freedoms sacred because he knows they are as much his as they are mine. In fact, they predate both our parties.
The two major parties didn’t exist until splitting from one unified party in 1828. That original party formed in the 1790s to support Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson was responsible for the poetic phrasings of the Declaration of Independence. James Madison drafted those first 10 amendments which became the Bill of Rights. And both men drew heavily upon the work of George Mason.
Mason wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights that was adopted by the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1776. That document inspired the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence and provided much of the ideology behind the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791.
So, when speaking of the genius of the founders of the U.S. Constitution, let’s not forget to praise that important First Amendment and give credit where it is due.
Now that everyone feels sentimental, let’s bring this back to those two issues that spurred this history lesson.
Judith Miller went to jail for refusing to identify a confidential source in a story she was researching but didn’t write. Columnist Robert Novak, who did write the story, remains free despite blowing the cover of a CIA operative.
Novak should be behind bars for his part in exposing the agent. His act posed a clear and present danger to the agent as well as national security and was outside of the protection of the First Amendment. It was borderline treasonous.
Miller showed good sense in not reporting the story, and her struggle shows the need for a federal shield law, even one (or maybe especially one) that includes a ‘clear and present danger’ provision.
More murky is how the First Amendment applies to the litigious protesters from Campbellsburg.
During the 1977 controversy when the Nazis sought to march in the predominately Jewish community of Skokie, Ill., George Hurwitz wrote this timeless assessment in The New York Times:
‘Free speech does not derive its sanctity from allowing every rogue to uninhibitedly announce his malice, every fool his mischief and every lunatic his delusions.
‘It is rather the opportunity afforded by citizens to contribute to the debate and to influence the outcome of controversial issues that hallowed the right.’
The Nazis, incidentally, won their right to march on Skokie, but they never did.
Don’t let the tactics of hate groups mar our feelings toward free speech in Corydon.
It’s free speech that insures that hate will always find itself outnumbered in a free America.

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