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The right to speak freely sets us apart from totalitarian societies

To The Daily Sun,

The Supreme Court — or SCOTUS — has affirmed it needs "safe space" and in doing so calls into question how we the people can trust the institution to defend the First Amendment or the Constitution. From the founding of the nation until 1949, the right to assemble and peacefully protest were allowed essentially everywhere in America.

In 1949, Congress placed a ban on organized protests and signs in front of the Supreme Court via 40 U.S.C. § 635: U.S. Code Section 6135. They made it "...unlawful to parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages in the Supreme Court Building or grounds, or to display in the building and grounds a flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement." They made safe space for the Supreme Court.

In 1949, Justice William O. Douglas wrote for SCOTUS that: "The vitality of civil and political institutions in our society depends on free discussion ... It is only through free debate and free exchange of ideas that government remains responsive to the will of the people and peaceful change is effected. The right to speak freely and to promote diversity of ideas and programs is therefore one of the chief distinctions that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes." The ruling of the court was and remains replete with irony.

In January 2011, Harold Hodge was arrested when he stood quietly on the Supreme Court plaza wearing a 3-foot by 2-foot sign that read, "The U,S, Gov. Allows Police to Illegally Murder and Brutalize African Americans and Hispanic People." Hodge was standing there alone when he was arrested. Hodge was offered a deal to have the charges dropped in exchange for a promise to not "demonstrate" on the plaza. Instead, he chose to fight the law.

In 2013, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell struck down the restrictions. The next day, the marshal for SCOTUS, in defiance of the appeals court and with Chief Justice John Roberts' approval, issued even stronger regulations to prevent free expression on the grounds of the Supreme Court.

In 2015 a unanimous appeals court overturned Judge Howell's ruling and upheld the constitutionality of the ban. The court wrote: Allowing demonstrations directed at the Court, on the Court's own front terrace, would tend to yield the opposite impression: that of a Court engaged with and potentially vulnerable to outside entreaties by the public.

This week SCOTUS refused to hear Hodge's appeal of the federal appeals court's ruling and in so doing it retreated to their "safe space," affirming their privilege to be shielded from the discord that accompanies public debate. At this point, the First Amendment isn't worth the paper it's written on. Clearly SCOTUS is detached from the intentions of those who wrote the Constitution they are sworn to support and defend.

Benjamin Franklin said of the importance of free speech: "Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved."

We are seeing this dissolution thanks to laws that give "safe spaces" to judges, politicians, college edicts that restrict speech on campus, edicts from federal regulators and rules by local government and regulatory bodies restricting the use of gender pronouns.

Our creator endows us with certain unalienable rights. Thank you Mr. Hodge and shame on the Supreme Court, Congress and regulators.

Marc Abear


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Meredith should never have allowed crematorium in that location

To The Daily Sun,

For me, it's hard to believe that Peter Mayhew of Mayhew's Funeral Home in Meredith has chosen to jeopardize his character, credibility, reputation and his clients' peace of mind, over the cost of extending the height of his crematorium chimney. Instead of simply extending his chimney he now has decided to hire a lawyer and sue the very man who once said, "If you extend your chimney you'll never hear from me again" (story - May 19).

It makes no sense. Mr. Mayhew must be aware that lawyers aren't cheap and that he is losing business because of all this controversy. So, if you factor in the lawyer and loss of business and compare that to what an extension would have cost you really begin to wonder why he's throwing so much money away when he could have just made the problem go away by extending the chimney.

There's no question that the setbacks, in respect to the chimney's particulate and gas emissions, are improper and that the DES and town of Meredith should have never allowed the crematorium in that location, in the first place. Even a blind person can see that. But none of that matters anymore.

Since town governments and state agencies aren't really familiar with the concepts of admitting their mistakes and fixing them, Mr. Mayhew and his abutter seem doomed to remain locked in battle, the lawyers will become richer, public opinion will escalate, nerves will be frayed, sleep will be lost ... and unfortunately the one person who could have made this problem go away, will not be called ... the mason.

Al Blake

  • Category: Letters
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