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1st Amendment Alexandria ocasio-cortez AOC Big tech Capitol Police free speech Intelwars privacy Twitter

Capitol Police send cops to podcaster’s home because someone else replied to his tweet with a threat toward AOC

Two police officers allegedly paid a visit to the home of a podcaster in California because of a threat that was posted on Twitter against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). However, the podcaster didn’t make the threat toward AOC. Instead, it was reportedly another Twitter user who replied to the podcaster’s original tweet where he benignly said the Democratic representative was “incredibly underwhelming” in an interview.

The podcaster, who goes by the name of @queeralamode on Twitter, shared a video of Ocasio-Cortez being interviewed by Michael Miller, the head of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. AOC was asked about Middle East peace, especially between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Her response was incredibly underwhelming, to say the very least,” @queeralamode tweeted on April 7. The Twitter user, who is allegedly a progressive “anti-war activist,” added, “Words AOC used: ‘What’ ‘How’ Words AOC didn’t use: ‘Occupation’ ‘Apartheid’ ‘Colonization’ ‘Genocide.'”

A day after he posted the tweet, two California Highway Patrol officers knocked on his door.

The podcaster told The Grayzone, “The officers said, ‘We got a warning about a sitting member of Congress. And it was because of your tweet, which tagged them in it.’ And then they just wouldn’t back down from this accusation that I threatened to kill her.”

Apparently, the U.S. Capitol Police in Washington, D.C., instructed law enforcement in California to investigate @queeralamode, whose real name is Ryan Wentz.

“I’m really shaken up right now. I was just visited by two plainclothes police officers from California Highway Patrol at my home,” Wentz tweeted on April 8. “They said they came here on behalf of the Capitol Police and accused me of threatening @AOC on Twitter yesterday. This is provably false.”

“This is completely outrageous. I was visited by two police at my home over a harmless tweet about @AOC. I felt scared, intimidated, and violated,” Wentz, who doesn’t provide his real name or home state on Twitter, said. “They knew my name and where I live. It was done on behalf of a congresswoman who advocates against police state tactics. I’d really appreciate it if @AOC could look into this. I recognize she probably receives a lot of threats, but I shouldn’t be harassed by police for critiquing her politics. I frankly feel very unsafe in my home right now.”

Ryan Grim, a reporter for The Intercept, said, “A spokesperson for @AOC says they did not report this post to police, and have asked for answers from Capitol Police: ‘No, not at all. But when we saw his tweets last night about being visited we asked Capitol Police to look into what happened here.'”

The official Twitter account for the California Highway Patrol wrote, “The CHP often assists in investigations at the request of allied agencies. Please contact the U.S. Capitol Police for additional information.”

“USCP investigates all threats that are reported by Congressional offices. The Department also monitors open and classified sources to identify and investigate threats,” the Capitol Police told Fox News. “This is standard operating procedure for the department. As it pertains to this incident, the congresswomen did not request that USCP initiate an investigation.”

A Capitol Police official informed Fox News that Wentz didn’t make a threat toward Ocasio-Cortez, but someone who replied to his original tweet did threaten the congresswoman.

“They were tagged in a tweet that was perceived as threatening that prompted us to look into this,” Capitol Police said. “Obviously as you can imagine, anytime there’s anything that could be a perceived threat, we’re going to talk to everybody involved, whether they’re directly involved or indirectly involved.”

The original tweet by Wentz, who has over 15,000 followers, received nearly 4,000 Likes and over 1,300 Quote Tweets.

That reply tweet with the threat to AOC has since been taken down from Twitter.

In February, AOC’s office sent a mass email to supporters asking them to “scan your social media to find posts with misleading information” about the New York representative and “use the built-in report feature to flag” threats or harassment of Ocasio-Cortez.

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1st Amendment BILL OF RIGHTS Constitution First Amendment Freedom Of Religion Incorporation Doctrine Intelwars Thomas Jefferson Wall of Separation

The First Amendment’s Wall of Separation

In an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Jefferson was, of course, referring to the First Amendment. He perhaps overstated his case.

The amendment was intended to prohibit the federal government from establishing a national church and to prevent Congress from legislating on religious matters. Of course, Congress had no such authority to begin with. The Constitution didn’t delegate any authority to Congress to establish a church or to regulate religious matters at all. The First Amendment simply made explicit an implicit truth built into the Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The establishment clause of the First Amendment is probably the provision in the Bill of Rights most twisted from its original purpose. People have taken Jefferson’s words and used them as a basis to exile any religious expression from the public sphere at the federal, state and local levels. Whether not you think the absolutism of Jefferson’s wall is positive or negative, it was never the intention of the First Amendment. Jefferson’s wall was only meant to wrap around the federal government.

Through the bastardization of the 14th Amendment, federal judges transformed it into a massive federal billy club used to control religious expression at the state and even the local level. What was intended to limit the reach of the general government was transformed into a massive expansion of federal authority.

During the ratification debates, many skeptics expressed concern that the Constitution did not include a provision prohibiting the establishment of a national religion. New York ratifying convention delegate Thomas Tredwell said he considered the possibility of a national religion a dreadful tyranny.

“I could have wished that sufficient caution had been used to secure to us our religious liberties, and to have prevented the general government from tyrannizing over our consciences by a religious establishment – tyranny of all others most dreadful, and which will assuredly be exercised whenever it shall be thought necessary for the promotion and support of their political measures.” 

Supporters of ratification dismissed these concerns, arguing that since the Constitution did not delegate any authority over religion to the new government, it could not possibly interfere with religious freedom.

Rep. Roger Sherman of Connecticut expressed this line of thought during a debate on the amendment in the U.S. House, saying, “It appears to me best that this article should be omitted entirely. Congress has no power to make any religious establishments, it is therefore unnecessary.”

James Madison acknowledged the validity of this argument when he initially proposed amendments but echoed the fears of many that without express prohibition, Congress might invade the rights of the people.

“It has been said that in the federal government they are unnecessary, because the powers are enumerated, and it follows that all that are not granted by the Constitution are retained: that the Constitution is a bill of powers, the great residuum being the rights of the people; and therefore a bill of rights cannot be so necessary as if the residuum was thrown into the hands of the government. I admit that these arguments are not entirely without foundation; but they are not conclusive to the extent which has been supposed. It is true the powers of the general government are circumscribed; they are directed to particular objects; but even if government keeps within those limits, it has certain discretionary powers with respect to the means, which may admit of abuse to a certain extent.”

The “necessary and proper” clause, along with treaty powers, were both brought up as possible vessels that the federal government could use to establish a religion or infringe on free exercise thereof.

During a debate on amendments, on Aug. 15, 1789, Madison explained the meaning of the religious clause as recorded in the congressional record.

“Mr. Madison said he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience; whether the words are necessary or not, he did not mean to say, but they had been required by some of the state conventions, who seemed to entertain an opinion that under the clause of the Constitution, which gave power to Congress to make all laws necessary and proper to carry into execution the Constitution, and the laws made under it, enabled them to make laws of such a nature as might infringe on the rights of conscience, or establish a national religion, to prevent these effects he presumed the amendment was intended, and he thought it well expressed as the nature of the language would admit.”

Notice there was no mention of protecting religious freedom in the states. This was not even contemplated. That was considered a role left to the states.

In fact, several states did involve their governments in religion. For instance, the Massachusetts state constitution asserted that “the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend on piety, religion and morality,” and provided for the collection of a tax with funds distributed for support of religious organizations of the taxpayer’s choice. By prohibiting Congress from establishing a religion, it was understood that it prohibited any law that would interfere with state religions where they still existed.

The original amendment language proposed by Madison included the words, “nor shall any national religion be established.”

“Mr. Madison thought if the word national was inserted before religion, it would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the people feared one sect might obtain a preeminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform; he thought if the word national was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.”

Madison ultimately withdrew the word “national” because of concerns that it could be misconstrued to imply that the Constitution created a consolidated national government as opposed to a federation of states.

During ratification debates in North Carolina, state convention delegate James Iredell addressed the question as to why the Constitution didn’t guarantee religious freedom to the states.

“Had Congress undertaken to gauranty religious freedom, or any particular species of it, they would have had a pretense to interfere in a subject they have nothing to do with. Each state, so far as the clause in question [gauranty of a republican government], must be left to the operation of its own principles.”

The federal government’s use of the First Amendment to prohibit religious displays in local parks, to force the removal of the Ten Commandments from public schools, or to ban prayers in public assemblies would horrify the founding generation. While some may have recoiled at public religious expression, they never contemplated the federal government policing state and local governments. They viewed the centralization of power as a greater danger than potential abuse by state governments, and they considered it the responsibility of the people of the states to police their own state governments.

Modern legal scholars justify this massive expansion of federal power in the domain of states and localities through the Incorporation Doctrine.

Religious freedom was based on an even more basic right – liberty of conscience. In the Aeropagitica (1644) John Milton called for “the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties”

In its simplest form, liberty of conscience means that every person possesses an unalienable right not only to hold their own religious, moral and ethical views, but to act on them free from the coercion of others. William Penn put it this way.

“By Liberty of Conscience, we understand not only a mere Liberty of the Mind, in believing or disbelieving this or that principle or doctrine; but ‘the exercise of ourselves in a visible way of worship, upon our believing it to be indispensably required…”

Religious liberty primarily grew out of a theological idea. John Locke developed the principle in A Letter Concerning Toleration, first published in 1689. At the time, obedience to the state religion dominated political thought. While Locke wasn’t the first to call for tolerance, and he certainly didn’t weave what we would consider a comprehensive philosophy of the principle (he excluded atheists and to some degree Catholics), his thinking was still quite radical for its time, and it had a profound impact on the founding generation in America. Locke held that since God does not force a person to submit to him, it follows that nobody possesses any right to force another to submit to a religious doctrine, including civil magistrates.

“The care of souls is not committed to the civil magistrate, any more than to other men. It is not committed unto him, I say, by God; because it appears not that God has ever given any such authority to one man over another, as to compel anyone to his religion…All the life and power of true religion consists in the inward and full persuasion of the mind…The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force; but true saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.”

Even before the publication of A Letter Concerning Toleration, there was a push for religious freedom in the colonies. Rhode Island founder Roger Williams and his companions bound themselves by a compact “to be obedient to the majority only in civil things.” And in 1649 Maryland passed the Maryland Toleration Act, mandating religious tolerance for Trinitarian Christians.

In the years leading up to ratification, legislatures in several states engaged in heated debates about the extent of religious liberty, and the idea of toleration was rapidly taking hold. The establishment and free expression clauses reflect this evolution in thought and were meant to prevent the new government from establishing a religion for the United States, or from favoring one sect over another, and to prohibit Congress from passing laws that would punish or politically exile Americans for worshiping as their conscience dictates.

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This article was adapted from Michael Maharrey’s book “Constitution Owner’s Manual: The Real Constitution the Politicians Don’t Want You to Know About.” You can get more information about the book at ConstitutionOwenersManual.com.

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1st Amendment FREEDOM OF SPEECH History Intelwars

A Brief History of the Freedom of Speech in America

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he included in it a list of the colonists’ grievances with the British government. Notably absent were any complaints that the British government infringed upon the freedom of speech.

In those days, speech was as acerbic as it is today. If words were aimed at Parliament, all words were lawful. If they were aimed directly and personally at the king — as Jefferson’s were in the Declaration — they constituted treason.

Needless to say, Jefferson and the 55 others who signed the Declaration would all have been hanged for treasonous speech had the British prevailed.

Of course, the colonists won the war, and, six years afterward, the 13 states ratified the Constitution. Two years after ratification, the Constitution was amended by adding the Bill of Rights. The first ratified amendment prohibited Congress from doing what the colonists never seriously complained about the British government doing — infringing upon the freedom of speech.

James Madison, who drafted the Bill of Rights, insisted upon referring to speech as “the” freedom of speech, so as to emphasize that it preexisted the government. If you could have asked Madison where he believed the freedom of speech came from, he’d have said it was one of the inalienable rights Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration.

Stated differently, each of the signatories of the Declaration and ratifiers of the Bill of Rights manifested in writing their unambiguous belief that the freedom of speech is a natural right — personal to every human. It does not come from the government. It comes from within us. It cannot be taken away by legislation or executive command.

Yet, a mere seven years later, during the presidency of John Adams, Congress enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which punished speech critical of the government.

So, how could the same generation — in some cases the same human beings — that prohibited congressional infringement upon speech have enacted a statute that punished speech?

To the some of the framers — the Federalists who wanted a big government as we have today — infringing upon the freedom of speech meant silencing it before it was uttered. Today, this is called prior restraint, and the Supreme Court has essentially outlawed it.

To the antifederalists — or Democratic-Republicans, as they called themselves — the First Amendment prohibited Congress from interfering with or punishing any speech.

Adams’ Department of Justice indicted and prosecuted and convicted antifederalists — among them a congressman — for their critical speech.

When Jefferson won the presidency and the antifederalists won control of Congress, the Federalists repealed the speech suppression parts of the Alien and Sedition Acts on the eve of their departure from congressional control, lest it be used against them.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln locked up hundreds of journalists in the North who were critical of his war efforts. During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson — whom my alma mater Princeton University is trying to erase from its memory — arrested folks for reading the Declaration of Independence aloud or singing German beer hall songs.

Lincoln argued that preserving the Union was more important than preserving the First Amendment, and Wilson argued that the First Amendment only restrained Congress, not the president. Both arguments have since been rejected by the courts.

In the 1950s, the feds successfully prosecuted Cold War dissenters on the theory that their speech was dangerous and might have a tendency to violence. Some of the victims of this torturous rationale died in prison.

The government’s respect for speech has waxed and waned. It is at its lowest ebb during wartime. Of course, dissent during wartime — which challenges the government’s use of force to kill — is often the most important and timely speech.

It was not until 1969, in a case called Brandenburg v. Ohio, that the Supreme Court gave us a modern definition of the freedom of speech. Brandenburg harangued a crowd in Hamilton County, Ohio and urged them to march to Washington and take back the federal government from Blacks and Jews, whom he argued were in control. He was convicted in an Ohio state court of criminal syndicalism — basically, the use of speech to arouse others to violence.

The Supreme Court unanimously reversed his conviction and held that all innocuous speech is absolutely protected, and all speech is innocuous when there is time for more speech to rebut it. The same Supreme Court had just ruled in Times v. Sullivan that the whole purpose of the First Amendment is to encourage and protect open, wide, robust, even caustic and unbridled speech.

The speech we love needs no protection. The speech we hate does. The government has no authority to evaluate speech. As the framers understood, all persons have a natural right to think as we wish and to say and publish whatever we think. Even hateful, hurtful and harmful speech is protected speech.

Yet, in perilous times like the present, we have seen efforts to use the courts to block the publication of unflattering books. We have seen state governors use the police to protect gatherings of protestors with whose message they agreed and to disburse critical protestors. We have seen mobs silence speakers while the police did nothing.

Punishing speech is the most dangerous business because there will be no end to it. The remedy for hateful or threatening speech is not silence or punishments; it is more speech — speech that challenges the speaker.

Why do folks in government want to silence their opponents? They fear an undermining of their power. The dissenters might make more appealing arguments than they do. St. Augustine taught that nearly all in government want to tell others how to live.

How about we all say whatever we want and the government leaves us alone?

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1st Amendment Coronavirus COVID-19 Intelwars Josh hawley Protests Religious gatherings William Barr

GOP senator calls for AG Barr to investigate bans on religious gatherings while mass protests are allowed

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri called on Attorney General William Barr to investigate states that are allowing mass gatherings for social justice protests while still restricting the ability of religious institutions to gather for services.

Since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, protests including thousands of people have taken place nightly in some major American cities — many of the same places that won’t allow fans to gather for sporting events or worshipers to gather for church in numbers greater than 50 or, in some cases, 10 people.

“In the past few weeks, state officials across the country have blatantly violated the free exercise and free speech rights of religious Americans,” Hawley wrote in his letter to Barr. “Under the First Amendment, state officials must not treat religious persons and groups worse than others, and they must not favor one kind of speech over another. State officials have violated the free speech and free exercise rights of religious Americans by treating religious gatherings and speech differently than the speech and mass gatherings of protests. I urge you to launch a full civil rights investigation.”

Hawley is not arguing against the right of people to protest Floyd’s death; in fact, he says people are “rightly angry” about the death and should be allowed to gather peacefully in protest.

Hawley referred to a recent Supreme Court decision in which the court sided with the state in a case where a California church was seeking relief from the ban on large gatherings.

“The decision tilted in favor of the state, the Chief Justice wrote, because of uncertainty about whether the church was being treated worse than comparable secular organizations,” Hawley wrote. “Now, after two weeks of nationwide protests, no uncertainty remains.”

Government officials, including New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have made comments asserting that the Floyd protests are more justified than previous protests calling for businesses or churches to reopen.

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1st Amendment 9th circuit False advertising First Amendment free speech FREEDOM OF SPEECH google Intelwars Lanham ninth circuit Prager university prageru Youtube

Federal court upholds dismissal of PragerU free speech lawsuit against YouTube, Google

A panel of judges for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss Prager University’s free speech lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company, Google.

PragerU sued YouTube and Google over YouTube’s decision to classify numerous PragerU videos as “restricted,” meaning they can’t be viewed by users who are using the site in restricted mode. Restricted mode is meant to shelter users from mature or explicit content. YouTube also demonetized some of PragerU’s videos so that third parties could not advertise on them.

The lawsuit claimed that YouTube violated PragerU’s First Amendment rights and also violated the Lanham Act through false advertising of itself as a platform that supports free speech. Both of those claims were rejected by the courts.

Because YouTube is a private platform, the court affirmed, it has a right to moderate content on the site as it pleases, even if some users may feel that moderation is biased or unfair. Judge Margaret McKeown wrote in the opinion:

Addressing the First Amendment claims, the panel held that despite YouTube’s ubiquity and its role as a public- facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment. The panel noted that just last year, the Supreme Court held that “merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.”

And although YouTube claims to promote free speech and a desire to give everyone a voice on its platform, those claims are not quantifiable or actionable, the court decided, meaning YouTube’s restrictions on PragerU content do not make those claims false advertising. McKeown wrote:

YouTube’s braggadocio about its commitment to free speech constitutes opinions that are not subject to the Lanham Act. Lofty but vague statements like “everyone deserves to have a voice, and that the world is a better place when we listen, share and build community through our stories” or that YouTube believes that “people should be able to speak freely, share opinions, foster open dialogue, and that creative freedom leads to new voices, formats and possibilities” are classic, non-actionable opinions or puffery.

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1st Amendment Constitution Establishment clause Intelwars Religion

The Constitution and Establishment of Religion

On June 20, 2019, the Supreme Court held that spending public funds to maintain a 40-foot Christian cross on public land doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution.

The cross is a conspicuous symbol at a busy intersection in Prince George’s County, Maryland. It’s unaccompanied by representations of other faiths. Thus, a humanist (non-religious) organization sued to have it removed, claiming it is an unconstitutional state endorsement of Christianity.

The cross was dedicated in 1925. It memorializes soldiers who died in World War I. The court’s 7–2 decision in its favor was driven partly by the length of time the cross had stood. Even if it had once been primarily a religious symbol, said the court, it is no longer. It’s now a historical monument and memorial to our soldiers. Forcing its removal might spur divisive lawsuits against historical monuments throughout the country.

The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. For obvious reasons, lawyers call this phrase the Establishment Clause. In the 20th century, the Supreme Court ruled (for reasons far less obvious) that the Establishment Clause restricts not only Congress but all branches of government—and not only the federal government, but the states as well. The government agency maintaining the cross is a subdivision of the state of Maryland.

Cases involving the Establishment Clause are often difficult to decide. More liberal Supreme Court justices have argued that the clause requires officials to ensure an absolute or nearly absolute “wall of separation” between religion and government. According to this view, the motto “In God We Trust” should be removed from our coins and the words “under God” expunged from the Pledge of Allegiance.

On the other side of the spectrum, some argue that the clause was designed only (1) to prevent the federal government from creating an English-style official church, and (2) to protect state official churches. Some say the clause is violated only if government coerces people into religious conformity, or if the government endorses some religions over others, or supports religion over non-religion.

The confusion arises largely because when the First Amendment was proposed (1789) and ratified (1789–1791), there was little public discussion about what it meant. So in searching for evidence of meaning, writers have gone very far afield. Some look to events as early as 1636, long before the Establishment Clause was written. Others look to the 19th century, long after the clause was adopted.

The real key to the meaning of the Establishment Clause lies in events between 1786 to 1790.

Prior to that time, almost every American state used tax money to fund selected churches and imposed religious tests on officeholders. By 1786, however, a move to “disestablish” state churches was underway. The most famous incident of this kind was James Madison’s successful fight to block a church-funding tax in Virginia.

The following year, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia. George Washington, the convention president, received a letter from Jonas Phillips, a leader of the Philadelphia Jewish community. Phillips complained that the states still treated Jews as second-class citizens. He noted that “the Jews have been true and faithfull … and during the late contest with England they have been foremost in aiding and assisting the states with their lifes [sic] and fortunes, they have supported the cause, have bravely fought and bleed [sic] for Liberty which they can not Enjoy.”

Accordingly, Phillips asked the delegates not to include a religious test in the new Constitution.

And the delegates agreed. They produced a document banning religious tests as requirements for federal office.

But the Constitution did require state and federal officeholders to take an oath or affirmation—a calling of God as a witness. Under the law of the time, this excluded atheists from office.

To become effective, the Constitution had to be approved by popular conventions in the states. At these conventions, many opponents complained about the Constitution’s lack of a religious test. Some opponents wanted to limit federal office to Christians. Others wanted to restrict it to Protestants. Opponents warned that without a religious test, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, pagans, Deists, and even atheists might be elected.

The response of the Constitution’s supporters became the basis of the constitutional bargain. It crystallized the principles by which the federal government was to treat religion.

First, they pointed out that the oath requirement excluded atheists. Second, they stoutly contended that all believers in God were to be treated equally.

For example, in North Carolina, James Iredell (who later served on the U.S. Supreme Court) argued that the oath was a sufficient test of religious faith—and the faith need not be Christian. Similarly, in Massachusetts, Daniel Shute, a Christian minister, told his state’s ratifying convention, “I believe, sir, that there are worthy characters among men of every denomination.”

By the time ratification was complete, the Constitution’s implications for religion were understood: Religious faith was valuable for good government. But government was to treat individual religions equally, as long as they conducted themselves in an orderly manner.

As I have documented in detail, the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise clauses reflected this understanding: Government might support religion in general, but religions were to be treated impartially.

The central figure in the entire drama was James Madison. He led the fight for disestablishment in Virginia. He was the leading sponsor of the Constitutional Convention. He was a leading drafter of the Constitution itself. And Madison was the primary congressional drafter and sponsor of the First Amendment.

This essay first appeared in July 7, 2019 issue of the Epoch Times.

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