To the editor,

The First Amendment is included in what is known as the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. The Constitution is the result of a congress created for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation which had serious deficiencies. The congress undertook the process of revising the structure of the government to provide uniformity and standards to the confederation of states which was to be known as the United States of America. Article 1 of the Article of Confederation says: “The Stile (style) of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America.'” The Constitution was revised to contain the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution is to address the construct and behavior of the government. It takes behaviors that are common and accepted standards in our society and applies them to the government as a right of humanity that cannot be altered by the government. This fulfills the social contract in the preamble to the Constitution. The First Amendment fulfills the charge to “secure the blessing of liberty to our posterity”.

The First Amendment right to free speech was understood to have the corollary which can be called the right to discernment. It is your right to reject what isn't true. The Constitution also makes provisions for speech that deprives an individual of life, liberty or property. It requires the states have laws giving you that protection. Rights are protected on all sides by due process guaranteed in the Constitution.

The notion that the principle of free speech is beyond the purview of government is not in the historical record. The principle in government is the restatement of a principle that applies to the standards of civil society practiced by the American people.   

It is important to understand the difference between laws and Constitutional principles as they apply to governance of the society within the United States of America. This is the fundamental principle of justice as stated in our founding documents -  From Federalist #78: “A constitution is, in fact … a fundamental law” “ the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.”

The Constitution is the will of the people. I can see no rationality to free speech being a free pass to the denial of life, liberty and property which is the stated will of the people. It is the protection of this will that the people require in their government.

The Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech”.  To abridge means to break the contract. The contract of free speech is that you can speak but you can do no harm with that speech. That also means that Congress can pass no law that permits or institutes speech that causes harm as it would break the contract.  

Harmful or hurtful speech is not freedom. It is the accepted social standard and the will of the people that we have protection from harmful speech. It is accepted that relief from harm is within the judicial standards of our society tempered by the standards of due process and trial by jury.

Edwin Taber


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