Boots & Sabers

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0608, 01 Dec 15

Americans increasingly support government speech police

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:

Eighty-six years ago, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote, “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” Distressingly, almost three in 10 Americans now support government suppression of hateful thoughts and that number is growing.

The Pew Research Center recently conducted a wide-ranging global survey about support for some fundamental democratic principles including freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of the press. While the survey generally found Americans more supportive of these principles than people in most other countries, that support is still lower than it should be and declining with each successive generation.

When asked if the government should prevent people from saying things that are offensive to minority groups, 28 percent of Americans said yes. When broken down into generations, the numbers are alarming. Only 12 percent of the Silent generation (70-87) said yes while a full 40 percent of the Millennial generation (18-34) support government suppression of offensive statements. Also, people are more likely to support such government censorship if they are a Democrat, a woman, nonwhite and do not have a college degree.

As far back as 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified, Americans understood that freedom of speech is an absolute necessity to preserve our liberties. That is why it is written in the First Amendment in unambiguous language, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” There is not any wiggle room in that prohibition on government regulation of free speech.

Since that amendment was ratified, our nation has seen fit through our judicial process to put very limited restrictions on free speech when it comes to things like national security and speech that leads to imminent damage, like the proverbial “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater,” but outside of those narrow restrictions, Americans’ freedom of speech has generally been held inviolable.

But now there appears to be growing support for our government to actually prohibit speech that is offensive. The problem with this, if we decide to allow our government to use the power of the coercive police state to regulate offensive speech, is we must first define what is offensive. The trend in places like college campuses has been to allow the offended to define what is offensive. That standard gives any single crank who decides that he or she is offended by something a veto power on speech. It also turns our legal system upside down by putting the burden of proof on the accused offender to prove that what they said was not offensive. Such a standard is unworkable in a free society, but works just fine in a tyranny.

Furthermore, in our current age of microagressions and students protesting about people violating their “safe zones,” the standard of what is offensive or not is a briskly moving target. Today’s perfectly acceptable language could be tomorrow’s racial slur. For an example, just look at how quickly the accurate phrase “illegal alien” has become a derogatory term that some presidential candidates are striking from their vocabulary.

Empowering our government to regulate our speech — even our offensive speech — is not the path to tyranny. It is tyranny. We must not allow our distaste for offensive speech to be a license for oppression.

Instead of looking to our government to protect us from offensive speech, we should do what free peoples have always done: combat speech with more speech. While people should be free to say offensive things, it does not mean their speech should go unchallenged. The timeless tools of argument, ridicule, shaming and ostracism have regulated hateful idiots to the fringes of American society for generations and they can continue to be relied upon.



0608, 01 December 2015


  1. Kevin Scheunemann

    Great article!

    I’m tired of the liberal speech police!

  2. old baldy


    I am surprised at your comment. You have made numerous attempts at limiting free speech on this blog; that of those not agreeing with your radical christian world view. You even went so far as saying you were in favor of brain washing members of your family. Or is “free speech” another one of the terms that only you can define? Maybe I should get a copy of the Scheuemann Dictionary of the English Language. Are they available at DQ ?

  3. Kevin Scheunemann

    Baldy said,

    “You have made numerous attempts at limiting free speech on this blog; that of those not agreeing with your radical christian world view.”

    I’ll bite. Examples?

  4. Joey

    Baldy –
    Does that mean you aren’t concerned with the main message of the column?

  5. old baldy


    I am concerned about any infringement on free speech as long as that “free speech” doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. Kevin is a good example, where on a different thread he said he would re-indoctrinate his daughter if she strayed from his radical christian beliefs. So, in that instance, kevin is all for free speech as long as it is the same form of free speech as his.

  6. Kevin Scheunemann


    Where am I taking away my daughter’s free speech right?

    If my daughter strayed from her Christianity, Christians have a Matthew 18 duty to warn them about the eternal consequences and seek correction.

    I don’t see anything there that takes away her right to free speech.

    Is that your only example?

  7. old baldy


    So your religious beliefs out weigh the free speech rights of your daughter? That sounds a lot like radical Islam to me. Once again you fall back on religion to justify your totalitarian mindset.

  8. Kevin Scheunemann

    Free speech rights are about being free from government interference when it comes to speech.

    A parent has a duty to train their child and prepare them for this life and eternity. That has nothing to do with free speech rights in relation to government suppression.

  9. old baldy


    Free speech rights don’t just apply to the government, court cases will prove you wrong. Once again you are selectively applying what applies to you and what doesn’t. Koresh and Jones were also “christian” and thought they were preparing their “family” for life and eternity. Those episodes didn’t turn out well, did they. But since you have the “true” belief you are different. You are a hypocrite of the first degree.

  10. Kevin Scheunemann

    Koresh and Jones were not Christian based on the reviewing of their actions.

    Are you worried my children will not have opportunity to choose your path of eternal destruction by rejecting Jesus?

    You really think that is a problem, the choice to reject God, in our society?

  11. old baldy


    But Koresh and Jones both believed they were christians and so did their followers. Are you the only arbiter of the truth? Who bestowed that honor so squarely on your narrow shoulders? Do you have any proof that you are the correct “decider” of christianity? I’m sure that the priest at the catholic church down the road would disagree with you. But it seems that he has a “bigger tent” than you.

  12. Kevin Scheunemann


    Discernment between good and evil comes by engaging in active hearing of the Word. One constantly needs to discern and test whether the gospel is being presented in its truth in purity. In order to do that, one needs to understand the gospel by studying it.

    Those under the power of those 2 evil men did not recognize the perversion of the gospel message because they lacked discernment that could have come by engaging in the true gospel message.

    False teachers always have one tell: They don’t want their followers to have biblical discernment between good and evil. They want to discern everything for their followers.

    Just like how liberals hate discernment between good and evil by others.

  13. old baldy


    More non-thinking gibberish. You never answer a question, you just spout more nonsense.

  14. Kevin Scheunemann


    Pretty funny since all I asked was to provide one example of your alleged accusation that I “limit speech” on this blog.

    I think it’s simply an issue that you cannot deal with an articulate Christian willing to stand up to the standard liberal anti-Christian rhetoric.

  15. old baldy


    i don’t have the time nor the desire to sift back through your acres of gibberish ( that would get me a free pass to heaven , no doubt) to get the exact quote. But to paraphrase you said you would re-indoctrinate your daughter if she strayed from your beliefs. Limiting free speech, yes. Cult behavior pattern, you bet.

    I have no issues with christians as long as they don’t infringe on anyone elses rights. What I do take issue with is your view that only you have the “true” belief, and that anyone else is not a christian. And based on your extremely narrow and incurious world view you make claims that simply are not true. I’ll call you on those lies as have many others, and will continue to do so until your version of the thought police haul me away.

    P.S. You really aren’t that articulate. But you are good at spewing forth by rote the same gibberish without any critical thought involved.

  16. Kevin Scheunemann


    I take it then you have no examples of me “limiting speech” on this blog?

    Also, I did not say no one else has true Christian beliefs, I have been explaining what the gospel is not. Many others understand and believe the true gospel even though you consider it “narrow”. Christ himself described the path to heaven as “narrow”….it’s only false, mostly liberal, prophets that consider the path to heaven wide.

  17. old baldy


    Poor deflection. You said it, own it.

    The rest, again, is rote recital of your ideology. Nothing more.

  18. Kevin Scheunemann

    When you say “poor deflection”, you mean the words of Jesus humself:

    Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

    Matthew 7:14 “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

    Luke 13:24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

    It’s only false human ego that thinks the door is wide and inclusive for those that ignore the basics of the gospel.

  19. old baldy


    No, that is not what I meant. My comment still stands, as written, and not as described in a work of fiction.

    You can’t and won’t answer a question unless you put your fairy tale spin on it. But you are free to do that in the USA. As long as it doesn’t affect anyone else.

  20. Kevin Scheunemann


    So your Anti-Christian positioning is OK to affect others?

    Fascinating standard you have.

  21. old baldy


  22. Kevin Scheunemann

    You want to tell others that evolution and Christianity can go together and influence others to positions contrary to the gospel….but if I take the position pointing out the truth of the gospel, you don’t want that to affect others.

    Double standard?

  23. old baldy


    I don’t want to tell anyone about christianity. Apparently you are the olny one authorized to do that.

    What I do recognize is that the pope, who believes he is a christian, also believes in evolution. He has been elected to his position by a college of his peers, also knowledgeable men. You are self appointed arbiter of what is the true belief. While I don’t believe either of you, I do find it awfully presumptuous on your part to be so judgmental of others. No double standard on my part. I haven’t believed you from the start.

  24. Kevin Scheunemann


    You know it takes someone who is judgmental to determine others are judgmental.

    I at least discern with absolute gospel truth in mind.

    What guides you besides moral relativism…which means no fixed truth guides you?

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