- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2012

Chick-fil-A triggered a nationwide debate over the meaning of marriage, but another fundamental issue raised during the argument is whether the left believes in free speech. The rapid rise of efforts to retaliate against the restaurant chain for a personal expression of the company’s CEO indicates a vein of hostility toward those who happen to have a differing opinion on an important public-policy issue. Given that some liberals are already campaigning for a constitutional amendment to curtail speech, defense of free expression is more crucial than ever.

Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s chief, made a simple statement affirming a traditional view of marriage. For this, activist homosexual organizations called for a boycott of the company’s 1,600 restaurants. Radicals characterized Mr. Cathy’s support for the concept of marriage as a union between one man and one woman as a verbal assault on their values. “The real issue at hand is not freedom of speech, but Chick-fil-A’s secretive funding of documented anti-gay hate groups,” fumed Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. “There is no justification for such a business operating on our nation’s campuses.” Characterizing opposing views as hate speech is a cheap method of tarring a rival while avoiding making a real argument.

As students return to campus for the fall semester, the group is calling on colleges nationwide to ban the popular fast-food chain from their food courts. This has prompted Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious-rights organization, to remind school administrators that retaliation against the food chain for exercising constitutionally protected speech would be unlawful. Still, Davidson College in North Carolina, while having no franchise on campus, has suspended a practice of serving Chick-fil-A at monthly student events.

A separate peril to free speech unfolded on Capitol Hill in recent months. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, backed by dozens of Democratic colleagues, introduced the People’s Rights Amendment, which would limit constitutional protections to “natural persons” and exclude “corporations, limited-liability companies or other corporate entities.” Speech emanating from such organizations would be “subject to such regulation” as Congress considered “reasonable.” Drawing a distinction between the nature of individuals and groups of like-minded individuals is to venture into Nonsense Land.

It’s clear the proposed constitutional amendment is an effort to undo the Supreme Court’s watershed 2010 decision upholding free-speech protection for organizations: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Since Citizens United’s success in overturning the FEC’s ban of its film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton during her presidential run in 2008, liberals have redoubled their efforts to neutralize the powerful voice of conservatism among the American electorate. The threat shouldn’t be taken lightly. Five states already passed resolutions backing the People’s Rights Amendment: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Mexico and Vermont.

Granting Congress authority to regulate speech would be as profoundly un-American as current efforts to punish Chick-fil-A for its president’s embrace of traditional marriage. The Founders enshrined freedom of expression as the First Amendment because without it, other liberties have no voice.

The Washington Times