Complaints about lost constitutional rights are common these days, especially the six individual rights enumerated in the First Amendment.
What we call freedom of religion is really two rights in one: the government can neither establish a state religion nor can it prohibit the “free exercise thereof.”
Congress cannot abridge (shorten) freedom of speech or freedom of the press. I’ll come back to that press issue in a moment.
Congress also is not allowed to abridge the right of the people to “peaceably” assemble or petition the government to redress (set right) grievances.
I don’t have to be a Supreme Court justice or have a law degree to know that the U.S. Constitution grants the power to write and establish laws to only one branch of the federal government — the legislative branch. That means all judicial decrees and executive orders that have the effect of law are unconstitutional. Ditto for all levels of local, state and federal government as well as public-service institutions and organizations that attempt to restrict the above constitutional rights.
There’s nothing more frustrating for a reporter than asking a government or public-service official for information and being told he or she “cannot comment on that without official permission.” The official restricting a response has just suppressed the press.
I understand some military information needs to be suppressed. The public doesn’t need to know how many troops come and go from a military base. That’s disclosure of classified information. I don’t understand, however, why congressional leaders can’t truthfully respond to questions about Homeland Security buying up billions of rounds of ammunition. I’m not so stupid to believe they need hollow-point ammunition for target practice.
And, yes, I realize military personnel are not allowed to express their personal opinions about command policy, from their squad leader up to their commander in chief. Doing so can destroy the order and discipline necessary for the Armed Forces.
But just as a soldier is not obligated to follow an illegal order in combat (like killing prisoners), soldiers are not obligated to follow illegal orders in peacetime (like firing on innocent civilians in the homeland or forcing fellow Americans into containment camps). If I can’t get a straight answer about new recruiting policies, how can I expect to get an honest answer about efforts to indoctrinate soldiers and military leaders to follow an order — all orders — even unconstitutional orders?
It’s easy enough to understand why city officials would want their facts straight before they respond to a reporter’s questions about water-treatment plant problems. It’s not understandable why school officials deny facts about failing teaching strategies (like whole language vs. phonics reading programs) or risks to students’ safety. Kids do not belong to the school or the government that controls the schools. It’s clear that parents lost control of schools a century ago.
I can recall, as a teacher, taking a survey one day that asked if there was gang activity in our school and if we ever felt threatened by some of these students. We later were chewed out by the principal for responding truthfully. Truth is not relative, regardless what the National Education Association would like you to believe.
Many folks who claim to be tolerant will go berserk when they hear something politically incorrect, and that includes news media. In fact, media bias is a major reason government officials and public-service executives know they can get away with stonewalling the press for information. It’s not always how the media slants the news; lately, it’s news that the media chooses to ignore.
Why, for example, was Phil Robertson condemned last month by the media as a radical because he quotes and believes the Bible, but Oprah Winfrey got a free pass a month earlier after suggesting elderly white Southerners need to just die in order to end racism? Where was the media outrage?
It’s important for leaders at all levels to stop suppressing the press by releasing only the information they want the press and, thusly, the public to know. It’s equally important for journalists, editors and publishers to restore their credibility by saving their personal biases for the editorial page.
A half-truth is a whole lie, and it doesn’t matter if it’s the result of filtered information provided to the press by Orwellian-style “inner-party” leaders or the result of “Ministry of Truth” re-writing reality with the help of media bias.
Murray covers the military and city government for the Coastal Courier.