The Invaluable

My first reaction to George Will’s column in this morning’s Indianapolis Star was something along the lines of “George, you like to posture as a sophisticated, world-weary intellectual—and you’ve been taken in by another urban legend!”


The gist of Will’s complaint was that pro-gay political correctness was turning opinions into “hate speech.” Now, I’m no fan of laws against hate speech. In a free country, everyone is entitled to his/her opinions, and entitled to express them, no matter how stupid, scurrilous or unwise I might think those opinions are. But Will had his facts wrong. Worse, he was more or less parrotting part of an “Action Alert” issued by the notorously anti-factual American Family Association.


Which is where the invaluable comes in. 


Snopes sets out the entire “Action Alert,” which purports to describe the pending Hate Crimes Prevention Act as a measure that “would make it a hate crime for pastors and churches to speak out against homosexuality.” The “Alert” references the same California lawsuit described by Will in his (equally inaccurate) column, as well as other “evidence” of increasing “censorship” of religious speech.


Snopes characterizes the AFA’s descriptions—politely—as “gross and misleading distortions.”


The case that both Will and the AFA mischaracterized involved a woman who complained about anti-gay materials posted on the bulletin board at her place of work. The employer removed it, and the person who posted it sued, saying his free speech rights had been violated. The court dismissed the complaint and upheld the right of an employer to remove materials in the workplace that cause dissention among employees or distract from the work environment.


The AFA clearly depends upon a widespread constitutional ignorance

among those who receive its “Alerts.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with constitutional principles would see right through this one. The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause absolutely protects religious speech and belief—against government suppression. The Bill of Rights is a list of things that government cannot do.


As I used to tell my children, the government can’t tell you what not to say—but your mother sure can. And so can your employer.


Next time, George, check Snopes.