This op-ed originally appeared on Townhall.com
by Kenneth Blackwell
July 17, 2008
House Speaker Pelosi is hinting at reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, and many of her liberal colleagues in Congress are doing the same in both chambers. Alleging the press isnt balanced, they say government should be making sure all viewpoints meaning the lefts are fairly represented. I agree the press isnt balanced, but Mrs. Pelosi has it backward; liberalism dominates the press, including the three major networks and most major newspapers.
Though originally the Fairness Doctrine did not require opposing time be equal, it came to be the standard. The concern at the time was the prevention of a single viewpoint from dominating the news and biasing the people.
By the 1980s, there were many radio and TV stations available. And many believed the Fairness Doctrine was unconstitutional in any event. So in 1987, Ronald Reagans Federal Communications Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine, opening every press outlet to freely decide what content to carry. The Democrat-controlled Congress at the time passed legislation to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, but President Reagan vetoed the bill.
This led to the birth of talk radio.
The doctrines reinstatement would kill conservative talk radio. Radio stations that carry Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck would have to create liberal shows of equal length. And when those shows fail to make money and the stations take a loss, their only option in cancelling those shows would be to cancel the conservative shows as well.
Free speech would lose. Americans would lose.
Religious freedom is also under assault. Center stage is Californias same-sex marriage policy imposed by an activist judiciary. Already activist groups are talking about going after the tax-exempt status of churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Others discuss how they can sue business vendors who refuse to provide services to same-sex marriage ceremonies or receptions. Still others are talking about making charities run by churches that oppose same-sex marriage ineligible to continue as non-profit organizations.
This line of thinking and liberal assault also is found in what Senator Barack Obama promises to do with faith-based initiatives. He says he would institute new regulations under which an organization cannot base hiring decisions on the applicants beliefs and still be eligible for aid. In other words, a Baptist homeless shelter could not refuse to hire an atheist for not believing Baptist or any religious articles of faith.
All these actions cut to the core of the First Amendment. In the 1970s, pop psychologists used the term micro-debilitating aggressions. It referred to the compounding of negative threats until the result was much worse than each threat taken on its own. The left is doing the same with its attack on our free speech and religious liberty.
Americans are touchy about their rights. Sometimes it seems many mistakenly think anything that is good from a job to good housing is a right owed us. These are rights many think government is obligated to provide.
In all the talk about rights, we often forget the more fundamental rights: the rights we have by virtue of our humanity, the rights we have against government, the inalienable rights endowed to us by our Creator. We forget, in other words, both the moral basis of human rights and our responsibility to protect these rights.
The rights of free speech and religious liberty in the First Amendment of the Constitution reflect this notion of God given rights. It reflects them because these rights are not given from government but inherent in our humanity.
The First Amendment protects matters concerning freedom of conscience and belief. Its six clauses contain the very essence of liberty, the fixed North Star toward which our entire American system points.
The First Amendment freedom of conscience naturally divides into two parts. The clauses on free speech, a free press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition the government to allow us to express ourselves personally or through the press to speak about any issue. The clauses on the establishment of religion and free religious exercise protect our right to believe according to the dictates of our own conscience. These are the twin pillars of a society where hearts and heads are free.
Alarmingly they are under siege by the forces of statism. This year the left has launched a full assault on the First Amendment. The battle has been joined by opponents on the right and the outcome will shape the soul of our Republic.