Does The First Amendment Only Apply To The Left?

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When the Founding Fathers created the Bill of Rights, there was no caveat for selectively applying these rights based on political bent. Instead these rights apply to everyone regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum. For a quick review, here is 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.

Freedom of speech and right to peaceable assembly are the issues at stake over the past few days following the protests and subsequent cancellation of a Donald Trump rally in Chicago.

Who does the First Amendment protect? Trump’s freedom of speech and and the right of his supporters to peaceably assemble? Or those who disagree with him, disrupting and stopping both speech and assembly?

This should not be difficult. Trump and his supporters planned on gathering in a closed arena. Trump speaking and his supporters assembling. Sure protesters can protest. They too have the freedom of speech and assembly as long as it doesn’t prevent others from doing the same. But that’s exactly what happened in Chicago. One group’s first amendment rights were ‘trumped’ in favor of the rights of another opposing group.

Harvard Law School whiz kid and constitutional scholar Ted Cruz, along with Trump’s other GOP opponents Marco Rubio and John Kasich, seem to favor the ‘living constitution’ with a situational interpretation of the First Amendment. They don’t approve of the “general tone” of Donald Trump and as such, hold him responsible for the protests. Is speech constitutionally protected, but not tone? Why doesn’t the First Amendment apply to Trump and his supporters, but only to his detractors offended by his tone? What would James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, think about this?

Where were these three constitutional relativists when candidate Barack Obama uttered the same type of provocative threat as Trump does at his rallies?

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said at a Philadelphia fundraiser Friday night. “Because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.”

Constitutional Ted would have likely said that while he disagreed with the candidate Obama’s words, his right to say such things was protected by the First Amendment.

Not so today. Cruz instead came down on the side of the ‘protester class’ including domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, Black Lives Matter, and other far left rabble rousers that believe only their rights of speech and assembly are constitutionally protected.

How will this play out in the bigger campaign picture? Likely not so well for Cruz who is losing law enforcement support over his situational interpretation of the First Amendment. What about voters at large? Time believes the protests will help rather than hurt the Trump campaign.

No surprise. We are seeing the selective application of the First Amendment way too often. All in the name of political correctness, tolerance, diversity, and other empty causes that seek to nullify the First Amendment.

Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro was to speak at a public California university on the subject of diversity. But the university president cancelled Shapiro’s speech because somehow his views wouldn’t “represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints.” Huh? Diversity means only liberal viewpoints?

Or Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos causing the fragile snowflake students at University of Pittsburgh to feel “hurt” and “unsafe” since he was a “dangerous” homosexual daring to exercise his free speech rights by speaking at the university.

Ann Coulter, another conservative, had her free speech rights shut down at the University of Ottawa. Granted Canada doesn’t have our First Amendment protections, but one would think an institution of higher learning, even in Canada, would embrace the diversity of ideas.

This is why the Chicago protests will actually help Donald Trump. His supporters are fed up with the culture of political correctness allowing only some ideas to be articulated while others are verboten. The Orwellian “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” now applies to supposed free speech. Or peaceful assembly.

Does Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio honestly believe that if they were the GOP frontrunner or if they secured the nomination, their speeches and rallies wouldn’t be protested just as Donald Trump’s are? Are they that naïve or are they simply stomping on the First Amendment to score points against a political opponent?

Trump is exercising his free speech on such politically incorrect subjects as illegal immigration, radical Islam, and lousy trade deals. His supporters choose to peaceably assemble to listen to Trump. Don’t like what Trump says? Then don’t listen and don’t assemble. But leave everyone else alone. First Amendment rights are not just for fragile college students and liberals but for everyone.

The GOP should take note. Once again the Republican establishment is siding not with its voters, but with its opposition. Which begs the question of what they really stand for and who they view as their constituency. And they continue to be perplexed by Donald Trump’s popularity with the voters.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based retina surgeon, radio personality, and writer. Follow him on Facebook  and Twitter.