Proselytise Chief Justice Roberts, and thy Neighbor?

January 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Privacy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Controversy, a sculpture "Auseinandersetzung", by Karl-Henning Seemann, 1979 in Lammhof, Tübingen, photographed by Собственное фото .

Controversy, a sculpture “Auseinandersetzung”, by Karl-Henning Seemann, 1979 in Lammhof, Tübingen, photographed by Собственное фото .

According to a recent article by Robert Barnes in the Washington Post, the Supreme Court is presently deciding the size of the buffer zone around abortion clinics.  At issue is whether a person entering an abortion clinic can choose to avoid hearing the arguments of protesters, and not be forced to have a discussion with them, by staying within a wide-enough buffer zone.

More broadly, the issue is about the tensions between freedom of speech and privacy, including the right to choose not to engage in a discussion – the right not to be subjected to another’s attempt to persuade.

The Justices of the Supreme Court should remember that the existence and size of the buffer zone that results from their decision in this case will, by logic, apply also to the Supreme Court itself, as well as to the Justices’ own homes, and to their persons, when shopping or traveling or strolling.  If the buffer is thin, anyone will be able to approach Justice John Roberts, or any of the other Justices, when the Justice seeks to return or to leave home, or any time and place when the Justice is outside home, to convince the Justice of the errors in his or her judgement, or of the rightness or wrongness of either side in any case that is before the Court.

The outcome of the decision will also apply to all lower Federal courts, and to the dwelling places and sojourns of their judges, as well as to the workplaces, dwelling places and sojourns of all Federal civil servants, regardless of whether their work is classified or not, and to those of all members of Congress.  They will apply also to every house of worship in the land, and to the NRA, and to the Koch brothers.

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Free Speech

January 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Posted in Conceited, Enemies of Freedom, Fairness, Privacy | Leave a comment
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Campaign signs in Apex, North Carolina, 20 July 2004, photographed by Seth Ilys.

Campaign signs in Apex, North Carolina, 20 July 2004, photographed by Seth Ilys.

It is not just what you say, but also where and how you say it.

The Bill of Rights protects your right to urge a balanced budget, or the outlawing of abortion, or the imprudence of your county wanting to build a toll road, or that every adult be required to carry a loaded gun at all times.

It does not allow you to force me to listen.

It does not allow you to barge into the home of Chief Justice John Roberts, or into that of President Obama, or into mine, to force any of us to listen to you.

It does not allow you to barge into a session of Congress, or a courtroom, or a government office, or a movie theater, or a store, or a church, or a wedding, or a funeral, to force those present to listen to you, or even to hear you.

You can display your opinion on a sign on your own property, or publish it in print or online, but you can’t oblige me to read it or listen to it.  You can’t even force me to look at it.

You cannot constrain how I use my time, nor where I direct my attention, nor what I think about.

That is why it was reasonable for Magistrate Judge Karen Howze to ban Rives Grogan from the District of Columbia until his court date, and why the objections to the ban by the Rutherford Institute and others is misguided.  See here, here, here, and here, for description of the event and the Judge’s order, and for views opposite to mine.  Public Safety isn’t the issue in this case.  The issue here is people’s right to not have their time and attention hijacked against their will.

The principles above also show that Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church’s picketing of funerals goes beyond the limits of protected free speech.

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