Words are free, jails are not

Even though The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression is associated with his university, I love the concept of this organization. From its website:

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression is a unique organization, devoted solely to the defense of free expression in all its forms. While its charge is sharply focused, the Center’s mission is broad. It is as concerned with the musician as with the mass media, with the painter as with the publisher, and as much with the sculptor as the editor.

Every year, the Center awards the Jefferson Muzzles, which it describes as follows:

Announced on or near April 13 — the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson — the Jefferson Muzzles are awarded as a means to draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment. Because the importance and value of free expression extend far beyond the First Amendment’s limit on government censorship, acts of private censorship are not spared consideration for the dubious honor of receiving a Muzzle.

Announced today, the 2004 winners are:

Judge Miriam Goldman Gedarbaum

The U.S. Department of Defense

The United States Secret Service

The Albemarle County (VA) School Board

Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey

CBS Television

The University of New Orleans Administration

The Administration of Dearborn High School (Michigan)

The South Carolina House of Representatives

The Parks and Recreation Division of Broward County (Florida)

Jeff Webster of Soldotna, Alaska, and the Unnamed Arsonist of Harrisonburg, Virginia

The Arizona State License Commission

The Pilot Point (Texas) Police Department

I don’t make a distinction about which speech or ideas should be free. Say whatever is on your mind. Believe what you want. Synthesize what others have to say. Enjoy the freedom to say as much or as little as you wish. Make a statement, then immediately realize that you believe something else.

With censorship rampant in America, it’s important to remember that progress only comes about through the free expression of ideas. That shouldn’t be stopped by anyone. Anyone who regularly reads RollingDoughnut.com will understand that I admire this 1962 statement from the late Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black:

“My view is, without deviation, without exception, without any ifs, buts, or whereases, that freedom of speech means that you shall not do something to people either for the views they have or the views they express or the words they speak or write.”

Taking a little twist on an old bumper sticker cliche, I contribute propose this: Know censorship, Know oppression. No censorship, no oppression.

3 thoughts on “Words are free, jails are not”

  1. As long as we’re enjoying free speech today, I’ve got a few things to say about Bill Freaking O’Reilly. I’ll start with: I hate him. His show is masturbatory and redundant. People who agree with him get a signed copy of his shitty book. People who don’t get a dial tone. Thanks, Billy, but I don’t want you “fighting the good fight” on my behalf. No spin zone? I beg to differ.

  2. Tell Danielle, Everything will be ok! A few of us old Broads Like Mr. O’Reilly and Tony too. LOL

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