The First Amendment Does Not Guarantee Free Speech at Anytime

Godfather Politics suffers a problem that all websites that allow readers to comment encounter. We receive foul language as well as disgusting and inappropriate comments that would be more commonly found in a setting of an uneducated group of people. There is also the occasional violent comment that calls to kill or maim someone or a group of people. Most of our readers would agree that this type of language is morally out of bounds and does not further good discussion. It typically incites more inappropriate comments and name-calling. The topic under discussion gets lost and turns other readers off from even wanting to visit the website again. I know this because we get the complaints.

One way to counter this behavior is to moderate our comments. Godfather Politics does not have a full-time staff, so we rely on an automated system to pull SPAM or foul comments for us. The system isn’t perfect but it works well enough for our purposes. There are legitimate comments that get pulled which we try to approve when we catch them. Blame the troublemakers for ruining the discussion for the rest of us.

We notice a unified theme across those who make these awful comments which is “your violating my First Amendment rights!!” Guess what. No, we are not. We are practicing our right to engage in as wholesome of a private business relationship with our readers as possible. You are guaranteed no right to say what you want, when you want it in a private setting that someone else is paying for, namely, Godfather Politics.

There is a big misconception with the First Amendment. It has somehow received this status as a universal right that cannot be infringed upon in any way. Those of us who clamor for a return to Constitutional limits on government and cry out for help when the State oversteps these bounds need to be mindful of what our Constitution actually says and does.

Read what the text of the First Amendment actually says and what it actually limits:

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.

The language is obvious. The limits are only placed on our government. It is not extended to the private sector. The entire Constitution deals specifically with our government. Every power not given to the government (Federal, state, or local) is left up to the individual.

The most recent example of these limits were upheld by federal appeals court that called a man’s threats to “shoot President Barack Obama” protected speech under the First Amendment. I don’t condone comments like that, but as soon as you allow exceptions to the First Amendment you are looking at one nasty and steep slippery slope.

If you invite me into your home and then I begin to curse and threaten you with vile language, you are not bound by the First Amendment to just listen and take it. You can throw me out of your house. The same goes for a family-friendly restaurant. They reserve the right to throw you out for any language or dress they feel is inappropriate. Most would nod their head in agreement and not put up a fight over the reality of these examples.

Why is it when we enter the internet realm that we somehow feel entitled to more than is actually given us? You play by the rules of the privately owned website. If you violate those rules, whether written or implied, there are consequences.