Today's Supreme Court Ruling is a Solid Victory for Free Speech

Today's Supreme Court Ruling is a Solid Victory for Free Speech

June 16, 2014

Obviously, the order in which the amendments in the Bill of Rights appear does not give any one admendment supremacy over another. That being said, it is safe to assume that since the founding fathers incorporated Freedom of Speech into the First Amendment, they obviously found it of the utmost importance to the survival of our republic. Yet despite what could not be a clearer enumeration, the right to criticize the government or say and express things that the controlling powers may find objectionable has been under almost perpetual attack throughout this nation’s history, from the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to the IRS targeting of conservative groups under the Obama administration. Today, however, the Supreme Court of the United States struck a loud and unambiguous blow against government censorship and in favor of the First Amendment and the fundamental right of freedom of speech. 

In the case Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, the question before the court was whether or not the petitioners, Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life advocacy group, had legal standing in order to file suit against an Ohio law that essentially grants a state bureaucracy, the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC), the power to determine what is and is not the truth in regards to political speech. Further, the law empowers that bureaucracy to pursue those deemed to be dealing in alleged falsehoods and prosecute them as criminals. 

Susan B. Anthony List, after running ads against an incumbent Democratic Congressman based on his vote for the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), fell under the scrutiny of the OEC. The OEC ruled against Susan B. Anthony List in the run-up to the election, effectively suppressing their speech given that any appeal of the ruling would undoubtedly only come once the election had passed. Nevertheless, Susan B. Anthony List filed suit. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case claiming that since the election had already passed, the suit lacked standing as no threat of future injury existed. 

The Supreme Court, looking narrowly at whether or not standing to sue did actually exist, ruled unanimously against the Sixth Circuit decision, finding the threat of future suppression of speech to be compelling. This green-lights a direct challenge of the Ohio law, with the possibility of the Supreme Court determining the constitutionality of the statute itself in the near future. 

Today’s ruling is a solid victory for free speech. Ohio’s law is unnecessary and dangerous. Undoubtedly, some will say that in partisan elections a referee is needed to ensure a free and fair debate. There is merit to this argument; however, this case demonstrates exactly why such an argument falls flat on its face.  In this case, the speech was not one political party or politician versus the other. Instead, it was a group of citizens using a political avenue to fight the growth of government’s influence in our society, specifically via ObamaCare. 

In such a scenario, if the government is empowered to determine what is the truth, then, in the fight against big government, everything said by We The People will be deemed a lie. Worse, as the Ohio law proves, it can be deemed a crime.  This is not the role of government in the republic we were given. Benjamin Franklin, when queried as to what type of government had been formed at the Consitutional Convention, famously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” The point should be clear to those that feel the need to regulate debate and discourse: that duty is ours, not the government’s. 

The government’s persistence in trying to stifle the fundamental freedom of speech signals to us how important the fight to protect it really is. We should celebrate the opportunity that today’s unanimous ruling at the Supreme Court affords and hope for an equally unambiguous ruling from the high court in respect to the Constitutionality of Ohio’s egregious law itself. 

It's Time for an American Encore