Does freedom of speech mean I can trash my employer?
By Amy Abbott on December 21, 2013
Both Senator Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and Governor Bobby Jindal have expressed outrage over the dismissal of "Duck Dynasty's" Phil Robertson by A&E Network for Robertson's comments in the new issue of "GQ."
Politico reported that Cruz is “deeply dismayed.” Cruz wrote on his Facebook page, “If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson.”
Cruz continued, “Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job. In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him –but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree.”
"Parade" reported that Palin also wrote on her Facebook page.
“Free speech is an endangered species,” she wrote. “Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”
And not to be left out of the fracas was Robertson's home state governor, Bobby Jindal, in a statement as reported by "Time."
“Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana,” Jindal said in a statement. “The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”
All three of these individuals are or have been employed in government jobs. Maybe that's where the confusion is.
From my perspective as someone who has worked for private companies as well as a public university, I see a difference between "freedom of speech" and what you can say in the public.
My career has been in marketing/sales, so every job I've ever had required me to speak publicly about and for my institution. Had I the celebrity cache to be interviewed by a national magazine, I cannot imagine I would spout off about my personal beliefs. What they are doesn't matter. We can all find examples in the media criticizing both left-leaning and right-leaning opinions that are inappropriate for prime time.
Whether I find Robertson's views distasteful or not is not the issue here.
The issue is that many are defending this as a freedom of speech issue.
Freedom of speech is clearly defined in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights Institute explains in a document for educators that the Bill was originally passed to cover actions of only the federal government. The Fourteenth amendment included state government.
Here's the original text of the First Amendment,
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.
The key words are "Congress shall make no law." It doesn't read, say what you want with no consequences.
Don't we wish it did? Maybe if we all worked in Congress, we could say what we wanted with no consequences. Wait: there are consequences. We get to vote the bums out if we want!
Amy Abbott writes "The Raven Lunatic" column for multiple Indiana newspapers. She's the author of two books "The Luxury of Daydreams" and "A Piece of Her Mind." Her third book, "A Piece of Her Heart" will be published in 2014.
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