This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger
I disagree with Barton Hinkle’s column, at least in this sense. The First Amendment protects against censorship by government. We don’t have First Amendment rights to say what we please on the premises of our employer. That employer could have a rule that certain subjects cannot be discussed during office hours. If they find one of their employees in violation of that rule, they would be well within their rights to sanction that employee.
Private businesses are allowed to operate under their own rules as long as they aren’t violating the law. The First Amendment is binding on government, not private, entities. In Reason today, Hinkle used the example of the Dixie Chicks in 2003 when they spoke out against President Bush and the Iraq War. Country music stations pulled their songs and refused to play them. These stations, as private enterprises, have the right to play whatever music they want and do not have to disclose the reasons for their choices.
This blog talks about free speech and censorship on a regular basis, including several posts this week. It talks about laws or proposals from either the Left or the Right that propose to constrain American public expression. Government censorship of citizen expression is unconstitutional except for the release of classified information. Some forms of verbal aggression agains others, such as libel, harassment, the incitement of violence or false public warnings such as yelling, “Fire,” in a crowded public space, can expose the perpetrator to criminal or civil sanctions.
A proposed law declaring homophobic language prohibited on the public airways or in print media because it is hateful would be in violation of the First Amendment as would a law prohibiting music or movies with certain forms of adult content. Either would be government censorship that doesn’t meet any of the exceptions that I mentioned in the previous paragraph.