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As Julian Assange faces a revised indictment, much ado is made in the media about an assault on the 1st Amendment. Let me be clear here, I think that Julian Assange is filth. Nothing he has done has accomplished anything he purported to be his aims. No hinted promise he has ever made as to something big happening has ever come to pass. He took advantage of his Ecuadorian hosts and repaid their kindness with disdain. That said, is the impending prosecution of Mr. Assange really an assault on the 1st Amendment?

In 1917, the United States had declared war on Imperial Germany. The nation was gripped in a patriotic fervor in which the Wilson Administration did not ask for citizen support, it commanded it. Congress passed two laws which made it a crime in the United States, punishable with imprisonment, to make a comment or display an attitude that was “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language against the Constitution, the flag, the Armed Forces, and American institutions.”

Now, had Mr. Assange committed is actions in 1917 you can see where things could have been a bit of a sticky wicket for him. But for Robert Goldstein, who was at least honest about his intentions, it was a nightmare from which he never recovered…


I Have Questions

Most of us have long ago said that we believe that Facebook and Twitter (and other Social Media platforms) have the “right” to ban whomever they please, because, “it’s not a First Amendment issue.” In fact, even Trump’s legal team seems to agree with this position.

But solely for the purpose of careful consideration of the ENTIRE issue, let us consider a few things that haven’t gotten much discussion, at least as far as I can find.

Now, again, let us be clear, the Platforms themselves are not the government. I believe that we all agree that given that circumstance, they are free to allow or disallow participation as they see fit. So, banning Alex Jones or Louis Farrakhan or shadow banning Devin’s Cow might be a bad business plan and result in customer blowback, but it is allowable. Whether or not they should do it is another matter.

But… let us consider some things here:

USC §47 section 230 is a law, passed by Congress which exempts Social Media and Web Sites from being held liable for the end user comments (speech).

Two leading Congress Members* (and One Cow**) have recently publically declared that if the platforms will not eliminate speech which they find objectionable they will push for the Congress to pass a law which will repeal section 230 of USC §47, thus removing the exemption for Facebook, Twitter, and other web platforms which allow users to participate in the form of comments and/or posts, and making them responsible for the potential fallout from such comments and/or posts.

Did you hear what I said? Congress shall pass a law which causes the free speech of commenter’s to be “chilled” by punishing the platforms which allow it for whatever the commenters may say or presumably do.

How is that NOT a 1st Amendment issue?

The 1st Pillar of Liberty

In Maryland, a high school Student objects to an assignment on the basic tenants of Islam. Her father claims that the School is violating the 1st Amendment, specifically in that it is forcing his daughter to profess Islam by learning about the Shahada, the 1st Pillar of the Islamic faith. The Father tells his daughter to refuse to do the assignment and he files suit against the school.

Once upon a time (1997), I went to Israel and the Temple Mount where I had the opportunity to visit the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque that is there. Several people in our group strenuously objected to going inside (they were not forced to do so) and they refused to go in. But they also made it clear to those of us who did go inside that we were somehow or another denying our faith and insulting G-d.

So which is it? Is a school lesson about the basic fundamentals of Islam as a part of a course on world History from 1500c.e. to the Present a violation of the establishment clause or is it just an academic exercise?

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