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. — First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
I have written ad nausea about the fact that tyranny has always began from the left, not the right. It has always been the progressive liberals that have wanted to impose their will on the people. Another example of this is illustrated by a recent example what has happened to school teacher in Florida.
Lake County Schools in Florida suspended Jerry Buell, a high-school teacher with a reportedly impeccable record for 22 years, for posting his opposition to New York’s new gay-marriage law, and will start termination proceedings against him. The case will test First Amendment rights and encroaching political correctness:
“Jerry Buell, a veteran American history teacher at Mount Dora High School, was removed from his teaching duties as school officials in Lake County investigate allegations that what he posted was biased towards homosexuals.
“We took the allegations seriously,” said Chris Patton, a communication officer with Lake County Schools. “All teachers are bound by a code of special ethics (and) this is a code ethics violation investigation.”
Patton said the school system received a complaint on Tuesday about something Buell had written last July when New York legalized same sex unions. On Wednesday, he was temporarily suspended from the classroom and reassigned.”
So what did Buell write on his Facebook page that was so offensive to the political correct tyranny of the left? His first comment was posted on July 25 at 5:43 p.m. as he was eating dinner and watching the evening news:
“I’m watching the news, eating dinner when the story about New York okaying same-sex unions came on and I almost threw up,” he wrote. “And now they showed two guys kissing after their announcement. If they want to call it a union, go ahead. But don’t insult a man and woman’s marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool of whatever. God will not be mocked. When did this sin become acceptable?”
Three minutes later, Buell posted another comment:
“By the way, if one doesn’t like the most recently posted opinion based on biblical principles and God’s laws, then go ahead and unfriend me. I’ll miss you like I miss my kidney stone from 1994. And I will never accept it because God will never accept it. Romans chapter one.”
The school district suspended Buell, who had been the school’s Teacher of the Year in 2010-11, because thelley are concerned that gay students might be “frightened or intimidated” in his class. That’s a pretty thin rationale for punishing someone over what appears to be more or less mainstream opposition to the gay-marriage law. Even saying the above in a classroom would be a thin rationale for disciplinary action, unless school districts will be taking action against all teachers who talk politics in the classroom, and a Facebook posting is not a classroom speech.
If school districts are worried about hate speech outside the classroom, wouldn’t we be demanding that these Wisconsin teachers get fired?
Wonder how many of these were talking about the Wisconsin PEU reform in their classrooms? A few of them brought their students out to protest, as I recall. Should they be suspended and fired, too? Isn’t this “intimidating and frightening” to conservative-minded students in Wisconsin?
A recurring theme here is how The Left redefines what they want when they want to advance their extremist agenda. How else can it sell policies in contravention to the commonsense, traditional, natural and foundational — a way of life counter to all that is intuitive and instinctive? More than that, it will take opponents’ statements or positions, as straightforward as they may be, and literally (ironically) repurpose the statement or position into something utterly not what it is. If a conservative says he’s for a balanced budget without raising taxes, leftists will excoriate him for saying he favors starving the poor, and no amount of facts will set the record straight in the Left’s collective mind. To the Left, its what it wants you to have said so it can demagogue you.
Teachers are American citizens with same rights as every other American citizen. They get to have opinions and express them publicly. The school can and should control classroom conduct, and should butt out of other speech entirely. And here’s a lesson about free speech and the Constitution that Lake County Schools apparently hasn’t grasped: there is no freedom from offense built into the First Amendment. We don’t curtail speech on the off chance it might hurt someone’s feelings. If we did, we wouldn’t have any free political speech at all. And I would make the same argument in support of a teacher suspended from a public school for offering Facebook support for New York’s gay-marriage bill.
In steps the school district’s communications officer, Chris Patton is way off base. Not only was what Mr. Buell wrote “disturbing” (his opinion is disturbing but two men kissing on television is not?), but none of what he wrote is “personal.” According to the Minister of Information Mr. Patton:
“He has (more than) 700 friends. How private is that — really? Social media can be troubling if you don’t respect it and know that just because you think you are in a private realm — it’s not private.”
First, it was his personal opinion. Of course, once he wrote it, it was no longer something he held to himself. All opinions are personal and we know each other’s’ personal opinions because we tell each other! If it was private he’d never have announced it. Facebook is a place where you choose your friends and share what you want. Is Mr. Buell’s time on the social media giant relegated to clicking “likes’ on sports contests and posting updates on the lines at the grocery store?
Second, one’s personal Facebook account is not a school district maintained site. That might be different given whatever rules it might establish. Third, do Lake County employees forsake their rights to have opinions? Especially given his occupation — academic freedom anyone? The same Left defends to the death professors who demagogue outrageous and preposterous assertions and promulgate the most offensive theories on faith and country.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. Freedom of expression consists of the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the implied rights of association and belief. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights. The First Amendment has been interpreted by the Court as applying to the entire federal government even though it is only expressly applicable to Congress. Furthermore, the Court has interpreted the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments.
The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech. A less stringent test is applied for content-neutral legislation. The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. The right to free speech includes other mediums of expression that communicate a message. The level of protection speech receives also depends on the forum in which it takes place.
Despite popular misunderstanding the right to freedom of the press guaranteed by the first amendment is not very different from the right to freedom of speech. It allows an individual to express themselves through publication and dissemination. It is part of the constitutional protection of freedom of expression. It does not afford members of the media any special rights or privileges not afforded to citizens in general.
I wonder if Mr. Buell would have received a similar punishment had he posted comments expressing his disapproval of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or Governor Scott Walker’s actions in Wisconsin opposing collective bargaining for public school teachers. The answer is probably no. The left is selective when it comes to free speech, it always has been. Its mantra is free speech for me but not for thee.
Just look what public figures and politicians have had to say about the Tea Party with Senator John Kerry advocating censorship of Tea Party opinions in the media when he said:
“And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely, the media in America has a bigger responsibility than it’s exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual.”
“It doesn’t deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do. And the problem is everything is put into this tit-for-tat equal battle and America is losing any sense of what’s real, of who’s accountable, of who is not accountable, of who’s real, who isn’t, who’s serious, who isn’t.”
I wonder if that bastion of liberty, the ACLU, will take Mr. Buell’s case and bring a whopping suit against the Lake County School District. And what about that special code of ethics Mr. Patton is referring to? What are those ethics? Do the prohibit dragging middle school children out of class to protest an anti-collective bargaining bill or to a rally for liberal politician? Do they include union teachers openly protesting Arizona’s immigration bill? Do they include teachers going to a NEA convention and openly protesting conservatives and holding rallies in support of Gay marriage, illegal immigration, and other left-wing causes?
These are rhetorical questions and the answer to each one is probably no. Mr. Patton is espousing a very thin reason for the dismissal of Mr. Buell. I would imagine the attorneys for the Lake County School Board are not very pleased with the actions of who ever made the decision to suspend Mr. Buell over hos Facebook comments. They no doubt are trying to figure out how they will be paying Mr. Buell the compensation he will receive from his suit and how the will wipe the egg of the faces of the school board members.