First Amendment Center gets it wrong on Montana political money

In an amusingly-entitled post about “What was right” about the SCOTUS ruling on Montana’s political donations limit, they offer this nugget of wisdom:

What was right about high court’s Montana ruling | First Amendment Center – news, commentary, analysis on free speech, press, religion, assembly, petition

Far better to seek remedies that respect the First Amendment while powering a near-automatic disinfectant to the potential corruption of “big money”: Transparency. In an age when deposits and debits to individual bank accounts are nearly instantly recorded, there’s no reason — except a lack of public pressure and political will — to make all campaign contributions immediately visible to all. As connectivity and data management improve exponentially each year, contribution information could be logged, organized and made available to everyone in real-time — instead of using the months-later system we have now, mandated by old-fashioned campaign regulations.

Indeed, transparency is a good thing. But free speech also includes the right to privacy, as has been long-established in our code of law. That is, unless we’d like to undo that law as well?

Journalists and news fans will be familiar with this law as the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. We generally think of it as protecting the citizen’s right to information from the government, but between its passage in 1966 and the subsequent amendments in 1974, the bill is actually our framework for both our right to information and our equal right to privacy. And its hard to imagine how – if indeed money is considered free speech – it isn’t also considered speech that is protected under these same privacy laws?

This isn’t one of those areas where you get to give easy answers. Political speech is, as noted in the article, the most protected of all speech in America. But the needs of political discourse are sometimes at odds with the guileless literal reading of the Constitution, which is why thinking is so important. I wish they would have put a little more thinking into this article.


Freedom of Speech on the Internet?

It’s so not needed, especially if you offend someone. That’s what Mrs. Linda (Dirty) Sanchez thinks, and she’s introduced a bill in Congress to make sure everyone else is forced to adopt her personal moral code.

They call it “Cyberbullying.” What a load of horseshit. Defamation of character is as relevant on the Internet as it is anywhere else, as are most laws dealing with such issues. There is no need whatsoever to introduce a new law simply because someone made up a clever new name for the same old thing.


Community Centers, Schools and Free Speech

I mentioned this D&C article yesterday, flagged by a reader, about Fairport School District’s decision to say “no” to a production of the play RENT, citing the school’s sense of the appropriateness of the play for a high school. 13WHAM’s Liz Schubert also reports on this story, which seems to be making quite a stir in the two journo’s comment sections.

Let me begin my comments with a slight correction to Liz’s story:

The Parent Teacher Student Association provides the space free of charge, receives some of the profits, and uses that money for student scholarhips.

This is not entirely accurate: high schools are public buildings paid for with tax money. As such, they are free and open to the public with two notable exceptions: during regular class hours and on election nights, where access is restricted. As such, the public has the right to stage whatever productions they see fit inside the building and no special permission is necessarily required. Here in East Rochester, I know of a few people on my street that use the local high school gym equipment on off hours.

At the same time, the superintendent of schools has an obligation to ensure that the public property he’s responsible for is used in an appropriate manner. In fact, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of what a superintendent does, that is precisely his job description. So personally, I am not challenging Jon Hunter’s propriety in deciding what uses are and are not acceptable.

What is objectionable in Hunter’s decision is for a superintendent to arbitrarily decide – based solely on his own interpretation of the content of the play – that the play is inappropriate for public space outside of the school season. What’s worse is what the two subjects cited as beyond the pale for the school are: drug use and homosexuality. What about these two subjects is so innately untouchable? It seems like in this modern world, these are exactly the types of subjects we should be challenging our kids with in schools.


So Much for Community Centers, eh?

A reader of the website, Alan Smithee (if that is his real name, as they used to say on Night Court), alerted me to this article in the D&C. Apparently, taxpayer funded schools get to decide what is and what is not appropriate for theater productions in the summer.

Raises some interesting questions which I would like to discuss further. But it’s Saturday night and the wife is calling me downstairs. Tomorrow, then. . .