First Amendment Confirms Freedom To Think For Ourselves

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the NRA, is at it again with another wonderful article for his Standing Guard journal. Posted are some of the highlights, but it is well worth the time to read the entire post.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ban on pre-election corporate and union political speech in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in January, we expected expressions of outrage from the speech-ban crowd—but the venom, lies and intentional distortion by the media and self-serving politicians are truly shocking.

A Jan. 23, 2010 commentary in The Washington Post is typical. Columnist Ruth Marcus fumed, “In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.”

“Intellectual dishonesty?” That defines the near universal reaction of media and anti-First Amendment politicians.

First … here is what the court did not do. It did not remove the ban on direct contributions by corporations to candidates and campaigns. It did not—as President Barack Obama rudely shouted at the Supreme Court Justices invited to hear his State of the Union address—reverse “a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.”

In terms of you and me, and our National Rifle Association, here is what the court actually did:

In its 5-4 decision, the high court struck down the onerous sections of BCRA that made it a felony—because we are a non-profit corporation—for the NRA to use dues or contributions to the association to pay for any broadcast that even obliquely refers to a federal candidate. Those criminal sanctions were locked in 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.

When Congress passed the gag order on our corporate speech, it exempted media corporations, and that special exception to censorship is gone as well—deemed unconstitutional by the court.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy nailed it in his majority opinion: “Premised on mistrust of governmental power, the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints or to distinguish among different speakers, which may be a means to control content.”

Simply put, the corporate speech of the NRA cannot be treated differently from the corporate speech of CBS, NBC or The New York Times and The Washington Post or any other media outlet. If their speech is sacrosanct, so is ours.

“If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech,” Justice Kennedy wrote.

Censorship—like the BCRA ban on paid political speech—has as much to do with the rights of listeners as it does the right of the speaker to put forth ideas. It is the heart of the First Amendment. As Justice Kennedy declared: “When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”

Read the entire post HERE.

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