Leef examines speech protections in latest Forbes column

George Leef’s latest Forbes column focuses on the latest high-profile court case involving an attack on free speech.

One of the great liberal (in the true sense of the word) decisions by the Supreme Court is West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, the 1943 case where the justices struck down a law that forced school children of the Jehovah’s Witness faith to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance or face punishment for declining to do so.

The Court saw that compulsory speech was unconstitutional and un-American because, as Justice Jackson wrote, it “invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to reserve from all official control.” In telling the state that it could not mandate the rote utterance of certain words, the Court was upholding liberty – the cornerstone of the nation.

Today’s “liberals” have forgotten the wisdom of Barnette. They care little about liberty and instead desire to impose their ideas by force.

We see their authoritarianism popping up all around, and one place is mandatory speech. A number of states have enacted laws that require pregnancy clinics to post signs informing women who go there for help that the government has made family planning services, including abortion, available at low cost or even free. Even if the people who operate the clinic believe that abortion is morally wrong, they must post the sign or, like the Jehovah’s Witness children in Barnette, face punishment by the government.

Hawaii has enacted such a law and it is under challenge in federal district court. In Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor v. Chin, the plaintiff argues that the law is unconstitutional.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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