Ladies & Gentlemen! And Dr. Laura. Meet the First Amendment.

Via Jay Winston
on Aug 17, 2010
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In a move that’s bound to be upsetting for…um…somebody, I’m sure, Dr. Laura Schlesinger has announced she’s going to end her radio show in the wake of a maelstrom of bad publicity in response to a recent racist rant. Like many well-off white people these days, Dr. Laura is feeling oppressed:

The reason is I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.

Alas, like so many of today’s self-styled freedom fighters…along with, apparently, a vast array of people of all political persuasions who leave comments on web sites, the good Dr.’s clearly never bothered to actually read the First Amendment, which says this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Yeah…really…that’s it. Seriously.

In a nutshell: you can’t be arrested for speaking your mind.

I know what you’re thinking: where’s the part about no one shall get all PC and shit and criticize people for making racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks? And where’s no one shall threaten to boycott sponsors of celebrities who make racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks? Or people with websites shall have no right to control the content on their sites by deleting obnoxious comments?

Hell, the single most important part appears to be missing: no one shall hold anybody else in any way responsible for saying anything.

As it turns out, the founding fathers left all of those on the cutting room floor, fearing that they would, in fact, contradict the principles of free speech and free press.

Imagine that.

Note to anybody who disagrees with anything in this post: Free speech!!!

Note to anybody who missed the irony in that last note: I give up…really, I do….


About Jay Winston

Jay S. Winston, founder and proprietor of Yoga for Cynics (, has a PhD in English, making him the kind of doctor who, in case of life-threatening emergency, can explain Faulkner while you die, is currently (semi-)(un-)employed as a freelance writer and editor, teaches creative writing to homeless men, tutors recovering addicts in reading, was recently certified as a Kripalu yoga teacher, gets around mostly by bicycle, is trying to find an agent for his novel, resides in the bucolic Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, State of Mildly Inebriated Samadhi, U.S.A. and, like most people who bike and practice yoga, used to live in Boulder.


22 Responses to “Ladies & Gentlemen! And Dr. Laura. Meet the First Amendment.”

  1. Kara N says:

    "In a nutshell: you can’t be arrested for speaking your mind."

    That's really not "it." Individuals are afforded the right to express themselves without *interference or constraint by the government.* There are many ways the gov't could interfere with or constrain protected speech without an arrest.

  2. True. I was a bit glib in my "nutshell." The point is simply that the First Amendment constrains the government, not private citizens.

  3. Brooks Hall says:

    This bit of the quote in your post:

    ” I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry…”

    is just unrealistic. It’s too much to ask… Other people might get angry when you speak publicly… Nobody can control that. It’s wrong to try to control others like that. There might be a very good reason that people are angry… (I couldn’t load the movie…)

    I think that we all should take responsibility for what we are saying with our words, actions and so on…

    The strange thing about this concept of taking responsibility for ones self is that sometimes we do not know what we are doing.

    “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.” 


    I think the “they” could be seen as aspects of a person’s own consciousness that was dominating in a past moment that is now viewed as misguided. So the “they” might sometimes be ones own self. It’s okay and healthy to realize that you are wrong sometimes. Sometimes, when someone recognizes an error in judgement that was not apparent at the time they did or said the regretable thing, self-forgiveness offers a way to keep whatever it is conscious and workable in our experience. …so we can become better and more compassionate for ourselves and others.

    The first amendment does not protect us from other people saying that we are wrong or inappropriate. And sometimes we should listen…

    * I take responsibility for this comment that is practically a post * 

  4. William says:

    Well, Congress shall make no law. Doesn’t say “your local town council” can’t. ergo the mosque near the WTC. I believe the mosque should be allowed and they’d be at their own peril but Congress can do nothing about it but NYC town council can.

  5. Kara N says:

    Ruh roh…
    In the case of the mosque, the free exercise clause and establishment clause of the First Amendment are implicated. Both clauses effectively apply to all arms of the govt via the Fourteenth Amendment. This is why some ppl are mumbling about repealing the Fourteenth Amendment.

  6. Steven Whitacre says:

    Many of the Amendments are now considered to apply to private actors as well… that's how they got some of the KKK killers in the '60s after they were acquitted by local all-white juries- civil rights violations charges in Federal court.

  7. waxbear says:

    What part of the 14th amendment applies wrt the mosque? Naturalization by birth, equal representation when voting, banning Congress from insurrection, or the clause about debt?

    Or, is the argument that allowing the building of a mosque near ground zero count as insurrection by the NY state legislature?

  8. Kara N says:

    See Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947); Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940).

    You can probably find the text of these opinions on Findlaw if you are truly interested.

  9. Kara N says:

    Wait…does this suggest that you aren't aware of the due process clause?

  10. True–then, they violated people's civil rights by murdering them, not by criticizing what they said or boycotting.

  11. Absolutely, Brooks.

  12. Kara N says:

    Their civil rights weren't violated by being murdered. They were violated because a crime was committed against them and the state failed to properly pursue it.

    The mechanism used came from the Klu Klux Klan Act, which was enacted as part of the first civil rights act (1871) and allowed individuals to bring a civil claim in Federal Court against the state for depriving them of their rights.

  13. Blake says:

    14th Amendment says that the Constitution applies to state and local government actions. In a nutshell.

  14. Kara N says:

    Thanks for pointing that out. I thought that was common knowledge.

  15. Brooks_Hall says:

    Ooof. I heard some more excerpts of this, so now it's probably more appropriate for me to comment… And I think that if the Dr. could learn why what she said was problematic, and talk about it publicly on her show: how great would that be! People can learn together. I really think that people in those popular spots can do a service to society by learning publicly. We all have ways that we need to learn. She is confusing her feelings as a measure of what she should say, without considering the context of our times. She sounded ridiculous to me using language of past oppression like that in a time when an African American is holding the highest office in this country. Is her head in the sand, or what??

  16. Suasoria says:

    Back to "Dr." Schloosellipsinker…ahem.

    The government can't throw you in jail for speaking your mind, but I can still call you a douchebag. I can even protest against you or boycott you. That's *MY* First Amendment right, douchebag.

  17. good one says:

    Hi Jay

    I wish I could understand your point, but your crappy writing got in the way.

    Where did you get that PhD – JC Penny?

    You would be better off learning how to write from homeless men. It could only be an improvement.

  18. leighabutler says:

    Funny. I saw her make these comments on CNN and it struck me too that she had no clue what the 1st amendment promises. Poooor Laura.

  19. leighabutler says:

    "good one," Your comment killed my mood.

  20. NellaLou says:

    Waiting for the above comment to be striken via the new comments policy, or does that only apply to Waylon's posts? Funny thing to possibly happen on a post about the 1st Amendment.

  21. Kert Hubin says:

    Ha!! Love it!

  22. All in all, I like her. Yes, I think she is dramatic at times, but it seems like everyday communication includes a little showmanship to convery your message. I’ll tell you, she seems to have a great style! I like her!