By Tony Perkins
Let’s face it: no one likes to be criticized, especially politicians in an election year. Debating opponents can be a messy ordeal and, when you don’t have the truth on your side, it’s a whole lot easier to silence your critics than engage them on the issues.
That’s exactly what former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) attempted to do when Susan B. Anthony List ran billboards in his district that exposed his support for taxpayer-funded abortion under ObamaCare. Under Ohio’s “false statement” law, Driehaus dragged SBA List’s claim in front of a politically appointed government panel who challenged the statement. Smelling a violation of their First Amendment freedoms, SBA List filed a lawsuit and yesterday in a victory for free speech, Ohio District Judge Timothy Black ruled that the Ohio law unconstitutionally burdened the pro-life group’s ability to engage in the public square.
In his decision, Judge Black agreed with SBA List’s argument that they have the right to not have the truth of their political statements judged by the government. Incredibly just as the court was ruling to get Ohio’s government out of the business of regulating political speech, an alarming number of senators were lining up to vote in the opposite direction.
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Led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 52 Democrats voted yesterday for Senator Tom Udall’s (D-N.M.) amendment to the Constitution. The amendment would have granted sitting Members of Congress the power to write the rules on the political speech they don’t like.
Ultimately the amendment failed to garner the 60 votes it needed to proceed, but the move marked the first time Congress has taken the extraordinary step of amending the Constitution to restrict First Amendment protections recognized by the Supreme Court. The answer to criticism is not to silence your opponents but to more ably defend your position — or come up with better ideas — of which the Senate Democrats appear in short supply of.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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