Is it time to repeal the First Amendment?

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IMAGE: Public Domain (modified)

RANCHO SANTA FE, Cali., March 31, 2014 – Repeal the First Amendment — a radical suggestion? Given our ever increasing tendency to ignore it, perhaps the suggestion is not that far-fetched.

It’s not as if we haven’t put mistakes in the Constitution before. Prohibition is the most obvious example. The Eighteenth Amendment was passed on January 16, 1919, and repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment on December 5, 1933. In comparison, the First Amendment has had a much longer run.

The ban on alcohol was abandoned because too many people were ignoring it. Sadly enough, the same argument can be made with respect to our abuse of the First Amendment.

Think about it.


With respect to religion, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Do we honor those protections, or do we encourage selfish interpretations of them?

Congress has never attempted to pass a law that establishes a national religion. There has never been anything equivalent to the Church of England our Founding Fathers had experienced and were trying to avoid.

However, we seem inclined to trample upon the “free exercise” of religion. In our quest to be politically correct, we frequently engage in activities that favor one belief over another.

A cross, a Star of David, Ay-yıldız, etc., are considered to be “offensive” if they are displayed on public property, while their display on private property remains unsanctionable. What if we were to assume that public property without any open presentation of religious symbols were a tacit endorsement of atheism by the government? Since atheism is effectively an unsubstantiated belief, isn’t it just a different form of religion, although one in which the belief is in the non-existence of God, Allah, etc., not the existence?

Then, we have the incongruity of exercising our religious freedom. One political viewpoint likes to ignore such rights by imposing its belief that faith should not be a consideration within the context of social issues. The other side of the political spectrum clings tightly to the freedom to exercise its faith, but doesn’t want laws passed that would permit those whose faith differs to have the choice to exercise theirs as freely.

Let’s pray — or not — that we can resolve this dichotomy.

Next, the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” The more fanatical members of our society seem to prefer to interpret this to mean that you have the right to express your opinion as long as it concurs with theirs.

Both political extremes attack each other with an embarrassing litany of derogatory names and terms. Racist, sexist, terrorist, homophobe, Islamaphobe, anti-Semite, anti-Christian, anti-American, anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant, anti-poor, anti-middle class, etc. are among the more common personal assaults we hear levied against individuals to truncate free speech.

Wouldn’t we all be better served if civil and open debate were used to expose stupidity and prejudice rather than allowing an equal degree of stupidity and prejudice to be used to terminate the discussion?

However, our denigration of the concept of “freedom of speech” does not reside singularly among individuals. A degree of contributory negligence can be assigned to today’s media.

The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press.” Congress, for the most part, has complied.

However, an implicit responsibility is attached to this unique freedom; an expectation that such right be exercised with good judgment and generally without cumulative bias. With increasing regularity, our media has chosen to ignore such responsibility.

Profit has begun to prevail over principle within the traditional press almost to the degree it has interfered with our political system. Media outlets pander to those who pay the bills. They struggle to present the facts and to respect our ability to form our own opinions. Instead, they tell us what we must believe; spinning the particulars in a way that conforms to those of the political master they have chosen to serve.

Even the non-political news we receive has drifted heavily towards improving ratings rather than disseminating information. Stories are sensationalized and abhorrent behavior is glorified, yet we are surprised when tragic events are repeated. We fail to see the nexus between pathological behavior and the attention we give to those who demonstrate it.

Additionally, our press enthusiastically expands upon catastrophic incidents and provides every graphic detail possible. Then, it creates its own embellishments by trotting in “experts” whose tangential knowledge of the situation is so far removed as to render their opinions meaningless. However, this allows the media to exploit our fascination with scandal, other peoples’ misery, and drawing speculative conclusions without sufficient facts.

Perhaps we should peaceably assemble to discuss these issues and petition the Government to rectify them. After all, the First Amendment stipulates that “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We often choose to ignore those freedoms as well.

The major Parties work hard to draw distinctions as to whom those freedoms should apply. No more interesting examples exist than those of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements.

Note that both of these organizations represent “movements” that call for fiscal responsibility. The Tea Party focuses on fiscal responsibility within the context of our Government, while Occupy Wall Street calls for the regulation of fraudulently exploitative behavior among certain facets of corporate America. Their goals have more in common than they have in differences. Yet, we are led to believe they are almost polar opposites.

Certain progressives, who “stand in solidarity with their Occupy brothers,” have routinely suggested that Tea Party members are uneducated racists and that the Party is akin to Nazi’s and every bit as hateful and violent. Correspondingly, certain conservatives have classified members of the Occupy movement as filthy, drug-crazed vagrants who commit random acts of rape and assault.

Of course, neither representation is remotely close to being true. However, they stir emotions and induce fear among the more extreme elements of the major Parties’ constituencies, and that translates into money and votes. Let’s ignore both groups’ rights to peaceably assemble in favor of exploiting the Parties’ “freedom of speech” to divide and conquer our Nation.

As for our ability “to petition the Government for a redress of grievance,” we surrendered that freedom long ago. Consider what we have allowed the Democratic and Republican Parties to do to our most basic form of redress: Elections.

The Parties control access to our political process at all levels (local, State, and Federal). They have erected enormous economic and petitioning barriers to entry that effectively preclude anything other than an infrequent challenge by an independent or third-party candidate. They have applied similar obstacles to the introduction of issues. As a result, ballot access is essentially denied to anyone or any issue that does not contribute to maintaining the duopoly that manipulates the rules.

For those who wish to point the blame at the industrial complex and certain high net worth individuals that greedily exert influence over the system, please recognize that the opportunity for such exploitation does not exists without a willing person or organization on the other end of the transaction. Also keep in mind that those who benefit from the flow of money also draft the legislation that determines whether such interference is acceptable. This is the political equivalent to a perpetual motion machine.

It may seem ridiculous to suggest that we repeal the First Amendment. In fact, in a free society, it should. The concept should border upon being viewed as profane. Yet, the evidence suggests that many of us seemingly do not care.

When other rights are severely tested, when Government agencies are utilized to further political objectives, when States rights are casually circumvented, and when our pleas for transparency are met with redacted responses or simply just ignored, perhaps more Amendments than just the First have already been indirectly repealed. If you are disturbed by what is transpiring, here are a few suggestions: Speak up about it; write a letter to the editor; assemble with others of a similar mind; and contact your elected representatives to demand that the basic concepts of freedom be respected and restored… and do it quickly, while you still have a prayer.

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A Civil Assessment has been designed to serve as an Op-Ed forum for you. You are invited to offer your opinion and to discuss your position in the Comment Section. Please be sure that your “assessments” remain “civil” so that they may earn the respect of others.

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TJ O’Hara provides nonpartisan political commentary every other Tuesday on The Daily Ledger, one of One America News Network’s featured shows (check local cable listings for the channel in your area or watch online at 8:00 and 11:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 and 8:00 PM Pacific.

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  • seanachiejimk

    I hope all is well with Ye & Yours. The ‘Bill of Rights’ is there for a purpose. The day we give up any of them will begin the demise of our Republic. (Actually it’s already started). You’ve touched up the ‘Freedom of the Press’ and ‘Freedom to practice your chosen Religion’ (if indeed you have one) without State interference. I see comments from folks all the time demanding that Religion NEVER be intertwined while discussing or debating Politics. I simply answer in this fashion: ‘If a devout Satanist was running for office (any office); would you still have the same view? The silence is usually deafening.

    • Thank you for your comment.

      I agree with your point that an abandonment of the BIll of Rights would signal the end of the Republic as we know it. The First Amendment was “first” for a reason: It represents the most fundamental freedoms specifically reserved to the People.

      As for the discussion you have launched relative to religion, a Satanic candidate would have every right right to run for public office under the First Amendment, Correspondingly, there would be every right to vet the issue within the context of “Freedom of Speech.”

      It’s interesting that even innocuous religions such as Catholicism (when Kennedy ran), the Quaker religion (when Nixon ran), and Mormonism (when Romney ran) were viewed to be “political” issues, which opponents tried to exploit through the creation of a related fear (i.e., “Will the Pope control the President?” in the case of Kennedy).

      Religion is inexplicably intertwined with politics as it is a belief that comes in many forms and is held at an individual level by each of us (including those who exercise the freedom not to believe in a superior being). The First Amendment was never intended to ignore it. It was only meant to preclude a particular form from being dictated at a Federal level.

      I hope others will weigh in on the issue. It would be an interesting discussion to follow.

      Thank you again for your comment.

      • seanachiejimk

        I thank Ye yet again. You put the ‘issue’ in a clear light and succinctly. I ask your permission to use your response, or part of it should the discussion come up again. I would, of course attribute your byline as the author and put a link to your page for acknowledgement. Thank Ye yet again for your reply and putting the ‘issue’ into clear understandable words. I am still working on getting clearer with my comments and throwing off the ‘longwindedness’ I am oh so guilty of.

        • You may use our conversation in any manner you chose. Thank you for your consideration in providing attribution.

  • Jonathan Strackman

    When I was reading this, I was thinking of the famous Abraham Lincoln quote. While he was speaking of slavery and civil rights, it fits quite nice with our other basic liberties.

    “Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it, ‘all men are created equal except negroes.’ When the Know-nothings get control, it will read, ‘all men are created equal except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’ When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty–to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

    • Mr. Strackman:

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing the marvelous quote of Abraham Lincoln. The Russian reference is particularly compelling given the world’s current events.

      I share Lincoln’s frustration. As I have often said, “The phrase, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’ does not have an asterisk.” It baffles me why we seem to have such trouble recognizing that as a society.

      Thank you again for your comment and addition to the conversation.

  • Andrew Evans

    Interesting article and great points. Excellent points about the Tea Party and Occupy movements. When we do not care about freedoms and rights being taken away, abused, or restricted from others whom we might not agree with, it is just a matter of time before the table is turned on us. A great concern I have, and I think many Americans share, is do we really think our government as it is now and has been for a while will protect American freedoms if it means more power to the American citizens and less for the government or political parties and their allies that dominate the government.

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Evans.

      As I mentioned in my response to Mr. Strackman, “The phrase, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’ does not have an asterisk.” If were were to follow that concept in a manner that reflects the Golden Rule, we would open the gates to inspiring a civil assessment of the issues.

      We have become too focused on “winning” the argument as opposed to solving the problem. If we were to take the time to listen and find commonality rather than defaulting to a particular stereotype that may have been crafted for us by our Party of choice, we might begin to make progress.

      The compelling parallels between the actual bases for the TEA Party and Occupy Wall Street movements are but one example. Their supporters may look different, chose to express themselves differently, etc., but their fundamental interests are relatively similar.

      As the old saying goes” “God gave Man two eyes, two ears and only one mouth, so that he may see and hear twice as much as he says.” If only we practiced that concept.

      Thank you again for your comment.

  • coastx

    Deny the white rabbit. Restore virtue. Enforce the rule of law principled on the DCBR. Bliss is a miss. W/O hard work and periodic failure we don’t learn.

    • Thank you for your comment.

      For a “Nation of Laws,” we don’t do a particularly good job of manifesting that approach.

  • Eric N Keya Erickson

    I think the most disturbing of these, to me at least, is the tendency to halt freedom of speech through name calling and labeling. Many people refuse to participate in politics or share their views on anything because they are terrified that they will be labeled. While much of the labeling is due to ignorance and/or the inability to actually debate, a lot of it is also malicious; people use it to suppress others’ views and promote their own. Unfortunately, people support this by watching the talking heads on MSNBC, Fox, and other networks, where this kind of thing is in the script.

    I like your suggestion to, “assemble with others of a similar mind.” If more people did this, and did it in an open, all-inclusive way, I think it would go a long way to break down barriers between people. A friend of ours here started a group called the Transpartisan Alliance, it’s purpose being “to promote the humanization of the political process and the discovery of common ground by bringing conservatives, liberals, libertarians, green party, progressives, free thinkers and non-aligned leaders together in facilitated dialogues, to promote understanding, community, and to find creative and practical solutions to today’s pressing issues.” The group is small for now, but shows great promise.

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Erickson.

      The use of name-calling and labeling has been refined as an art form under the auspices of “political correctness” (as I addressed in my 2012 book, “The National Platform of Common Sense”). Here are two excerpts you might enjoy:

      “There have been a lot of ‘tags’ used to dismiss differing points of view. In the name of ‘political correctness,’ our political Parties have effectively learned how to shut down legitimate debate by cavalierly accusing dissenting individuals of being members of … or people who live in fear of … a particular race, religion, gender, sexual-orientation, socio-economic status, etc. This flies in the face of social discourse, establishes emotional scaring, taints reputations, and creates a huge socio-political chasm in our country. And quite frankly, I’m fed up with it. So, I shall address it as a premise to all else which is discussed within the context of The National Platform of Common Sense.

      “This Platform eliminates the practice of “political correctness” and its use as a weapon for suppression. You see, “political correctness” damages relationships and ideologies over time. It identifies you with a group and then stereotypes your characteristics within the context of that group as it is popularly defined. Ultimately, this isolates members of the group as if to define them as a separate, and somehow less valuable, part of our culture. As a result, prejudice and bigotry are reinforced … effective communication is shattered … and NOTHING ever changes.”

      Anyone who is interested may feel free to build a conversation around this point.

      Thank you again for your comment, Mr. Erickson.

      • Eric N Keya Erickson

        And nothing ever will change as long as we allow them to keep using this as a weapon. You’re running for President in 2016, right? :o)

        • Funny you should ask. I was hoping that you were. ;o)

          • Eric N Keya Erickson

            I don’t think my schedule’s going to allow that. I’m homeschooling kids, working from home, recuperating from a back injury… Maybe 2020. :o)

  • Paula Carrasquillo

    “We fail to see the nexus between pathological behavior and the attention we give to those who demonstrate it.” THAT! That is what keeps this vicious and chaotic circle of distrust and ignorance perpetuating. Pathological leaders and their behavior instill fear and greed where none should exist. Instead of acting from a place of love and compassion for all mankind, our nation has been acting from a place of fear and hate. Collectively, this nation IS pathological. It’s shameful. Thanks for a great article and thoughts to ponder.

    • Thank you for your comment, Ms. Carrasquillo.

      You’ll find that I have often spoken to the behavioral conditioning that the Parties use to deeply instill beliefs in an effort to control individual behavior (such as inspiring donations and garnering uninformed votes). The vast majority of the conditioning is based upon the exploitation of negative emotions: fear, guilt, greed, etc.

      Until citizens commit to becoming more informed and begin to challenge the baseless assertions that are so often made by the Parties, we can expect to continue to spiral on a downward trajectory as a society; one that replaces hope with fear, compassion with rejection, and kindness with hatred.

      As I mentioned below in response to Mr. Erickson’s comment, “political correctness” has become one of the more effective tools of this onslaught. Additionally, in “The National Platform of Common Sense,” I expose the Parties’ use of the “Seven Deadly Sins” to maintain and expand their power. Within the satiric style in which that book was written, I mock the Parties blatant efforts by “scoring” their effectiveness in the use of the “Sins” in a way that rationalizes the relative percentages of register voters they control. You might find that section to be entertaining.

      Thank you again for your kind words.