'It's Un-American': Anti-Free Speech Movement Accelerates, Limits Marketplace of Ideas
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WASHINGTON - Americans, many of them Christian, continue to be canceled, sacked from their jobs, and denied basic services simply because of what they believe. It's part of an anti-free speech movement happening on an epic scale.
It's a troubling trend because in America even the vilest speech is protected. That's one of the first guarantees the founders bestowed upon American citizens in the Bill of Rights.
Today, however, through censorship, book banning, and the new art of heckling speakers into silence - free speech is under attack like never before. So, what's going on? Why is there a fear of having different ideas?
"If you can deny citizens the opportunity to hear the truth, to challenge falsehood and lies, you can imprison people - not physically necessarily, but in a prison of lies and falsehoods. And that's one of the most profound forms of unfreedom that any human can experience is living a life of lies," Ryan Bangert told CBN News.
As senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Bangert has a front-row seat to the anti-free speech movement. He says it's speeding up and spreading to other sectors of the economy, like banking.
"Take my own organization Alliance Defending Freedom. Fidelity Charitable made it much more difficult for donors to give to ADF through their DAF accounts simply because we are a religious freedom organization," he adds.
CBN News reached out to Fidelity Charitable for comment, but the company didn't respond.
There are calls from both sides of the aisle to ban certain books many people find offensive, a practice some liken to the burning of books in Nazi Germany.
Others celebrate efforts by social media companies to censor hateful speech, silence so-called misinformation, and ban people's accounts.
The problem is everyone's threshold of what's hateful or dangerous is different and sometimes "misinformation" turns out to be true.
This spring the president of West Texas A&M University canceled a student-organized drag show citing his religious beliefs, calling such shows "derisive, divisive, and demoralizing misogyny."
And even if you agree, critics warn a university president's personal beliefs can't be the standard. If that's the case, then student-led prayer could be next.
Still, some calls for censorship and stifling of speech come from the very institutions designed to protect them. Take a bill passed by the House designed to prevent domestic terrorism after a shooting at a supermarket in New York.
Critics argue the legislation could enable the Justice Department to target parents who disagree with their school boards.
Jonathan Turley, a noted law professor at the George Washington School of Law and constitutional scholar, testified against the bill.
"Fortunately, even though we live in dangerous times we have a constitution designed for bad times - not good times. Indeed, the constitution was written in the worst of times," he told members of Congress.
He points out that similar laws already exist in Europe.
In England, he writes, "Even a silent prayer is a criminal offense when done near an abortion clinic." And points to a European man recently convicted of a "thought crime."
"The neo-Nazi was given a four-year sentence for what the court called his 'toxic ideology' based on the contents of the home he shared with his mother."
"While most of us find Brock's views repellent and hateful, they were confined to his head and his room," Turley continues.
At the World Economic Forum in January, the vice president of the European Commission predicted that European hate speech laws will soon be the law of the land in the US.
"Because what qualifies as hate speech, as illegal hate speech, which you will have soon also in the U-S. I think that we have a strong reason why we have this in the criminal law," said Vera Jourova.
Some scholars warn Americans can't assume the constitution is indestructible.
"Persons of certain faiths or beliefs, increasingly Christians, but also those of other faiths are being frozen out of the marketplace simply because of the ideas they hold," Bangert says.
"And that is profoundly wrong, it's un-American, it's also contrary to the principles of the free market," he continues.
Even the founders disagreed at times over how the First Amendment should be applied and while different opinions will persist, many people say it's important to preserve this freedom deemed central to being American.
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