I risk going a bit astray from our local emphasis, but I think this matters locally.
Three stories I caught over the last couple days: Rick Scott; Dave and Mary Jones; and Liberty University. The common thread to my ear is; is this what the First Amendment has come to?
A little background on each. Liberty University is the Jerry Falwell founded institution of higher learning, privately owned and funded. They recently told the on campus "Young Democrats Club" they could no longer use school facilities for meetings. Now don't ask me why a Young Democrat would opt for a University that will teach them early man rode saddled dinosaurs. Point is, is the point of higher education to broaden the mind or to propagandize it? OK, private facility, if one is silly enough to enroll, one gets what they hand out. Keep toilet paper and handwipes handy.
The Jones case, far more troubling. Orange County tried to prevent them from holding Bible study sessions, about 15 people a session, in their home, seems they had not applied for a "major use permit". This bit of nonsense might have passed with little notice except the County had not come down on Tupperware parties, poker parties, or gatherings to watch sports events. It was especially surprising since San Diego is the most reliably conservative enclave in California. The County has backed down, issuing only a "warning" to the Jones household.
Now to Rick Scott. Scott is a paid lobbyist for groups who oppose nationalizing health care. I take no position on that issue here. I had barely heard of the man until yesterday. Seems the people behind him came up with the money to buy a 30 minute "infomercial" following NBCs Meet the Press program this Sunday.
Being the resident political junkie, I am one of maybe 2.5 million viewers of the Sunday morning news shows, most of you go to church or sleep in or go fishing.
No matter, the opposition is feeling its Wheaties, and coming out strong. The Daily Kos (read George Soros), and the Service Employees International Union are lobbying to have NBC pull the airtime, and threatening that the FCC will sanction the network if they don't pull it!
The justification is that Scott "has a record of deceit". I don't know, maybe he does. The very notion that a paid loobyist would "spin" an issue shocks me to my socks. And the people selling magic fat-burners and herbal Viagra don't? If you have the wit to read this, you probably react to infommercials the way I do; changing the channel. Jeez, I've only got 250 of them now.
My point is concern for the First Amendment. I truly don't care what a person is saying or selling, if we are to have a "marketplace of ideas" it has to allow all ideas access. If David Duke can pony up the money, let him spend it. I'll change the channel.
Friends, Freedom of Speech does not equal freedom of access. If you are out in the wings, you are free to stand on a soapbox on public property and pontificate (within normal hours of business of course. Try it at 2:00AM on my block, if you're lucky I'll call a cop). You are not free to make anyone passing by slow down and listen. The other side of this is, if you don't like what the man on the soapbaox is selling, you are free to walk on by, but you can't call the FCC (or County, or Virginia) cops to shut him up because you don't like the message.
This is a thorny issue that has engaged better minds than mine for two centuries. John Adams helped craft the First Amendment and then used the "Alien and Sedition" acts to toss dissenting publishers in jail during his Presidency. The Supreme Court of that day quite properly spanked him and released Peter Zengler and other bothersome noisy people.
I stir the pot from time to time, sort of a hobby of mine. I would hate to see the day that my point of view could be ruled to be "deceptive" by some bureaucrat and banned from distribution.