In the wake of the Duck Dynasty dust-up, the Chik-Fil-A controversy and other events triggering “right to free speech” debates, we get this report from Huffington Post:
In the new survey, 45 percent of Americans said the First Amendment does not allow people to be fired from a job for expressing their views, while only 36 percent said such firings are allowed under the Constitution. Twenty percent said they weren’t sure.
Answers to other questions in the poll were equally depressing. The article’s provocative title was “Do You Know More About the First Amendment than Sarah Palin?”–and when the answer to that is “no,” you’ve really hit bottom.
The dismal poll results remind me of the young man who called the ACLU, back when I was Executive Director, and demanded that we sue White Castle for denying him his First Amendment rights. They’d refused to hire him, apparently because he was so heavily tattooed they found it unappetizing. I still remember him insisting “I have a right to free expression!” As I tried to explain, yes, and so does White Castle.
If the City of Indianapolis–or any unit of government–passes a law forbidding you from tattooing your body, then you’ve got yourself a genuine, real-life, rootin’ tootin’ constitutional challenge. When White Castle disapproves, you don’t.
If the government told A & E that it couldn’t suspend Mr. Homophobic Duck Guy, it would be violating A & E’s rights. If a local government refused to zone a Chik-fil-A because its owner is a homophobic jerk, it would violate Chik-fil-A’s rights. (Annoying as it may seem, jerks have constitutional rights too.)
Listen up, Americans! The Bill of Rights restricts what government can do. And one of the things government can’t do is protect you from being fired for shooting off your mouth.
Now was that so hard?