Two years ago, Congress passed H.R. 347 entitled the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act. It passed the House by a vote of 399 to 3, with absolutely no fanfare and barely anyone took note. What does H.R. 347 say?
“Whoever knowingly engages in protest near a building where the President is doing his business is guilty of a federal crime if the protest ‘impedes’ or ‘disrupts’ the flow of government business or official functions.”
Take note this is a FEDERAL OFFENSE, which means there is a fine and/or imprisonment for not more than 10 years. So basically you are not allowed to demonstrate at any Presidential appearances, no demonstrating anywhere near the President — or anyone who has Secret Service protection. You cannot raise your voice, say anything against the President, or even talk about doing such a thing or you can get a year in prison.
Who voted for this in the House? Everyone, except for 2 Republicans, Justin Amash and Paul Broun, and one Democrat, Keith Ellison. Does this infringe on your right to assemble and redress grievances to the President or other government officials?
So, now we know of at least one “Chip” in the first amendment! A real blow to freedom of assembly, freedom of protest and freedom of speech.
The second “Chip” is the NDAA, or the National Defense Authorization Act which specifies the budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense. Section 1021 of the NDAA allows for the “indefinite detention of American citizens without due process at the discretion of the President.” This section has been challenged as a violation of the Bill of Rights. Does this scare you? It should.
Do you remember the White House security aide who was critical of the Obama Administration over the “whitewash” of the attack on Benghazi? He was fired for expressing his First Amendment rights. Can the President detain you if he doesn’t like your politics or your religion or the way you wear your hair? Under the NDAA, yes he can…indefinitely, without charging you with a crime.
We cannot really talk about freedom of speech without addressing the targeting of conservatives by the IRS. Do you consider this “Chip” number three? Whether you believe only conservatives were targeted or if you believe progressive groups were also targeted is really of no concern. What should be a major red flag is the fact that the IRS could be used by any government official to “target” or “abuse” any American based on their political beliefs regardless of party affiliation. If they are allowed to get away with targeting political groups, what can be said when they start targeting people with black hair, or white women, or Jewish men or Christians?
“Chip” number four should address the freedom to practice the religion of your choice. In this day and age, do you feel that you truly have the right to practice your beliefs free from retaliation or prosecution?
In recent years we have heard and witnessed our military finding it difficult to openly express their religious beliefs. In an article by Penny Star, some active members of the military shared their experiences with her. They said “They’ve been prohibited from sharing their faith, prohibited from praying publicly and dismissed from duty for refusing to surrender their religious convictions.” In one case, there was a brief ban on Bibles being allowed in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Mikey Weinstein, an attorney, businessman and former Air Force officer, is the founder of the MRFF, Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He is quoted as saying, “What you’ve got is a lusty and thriving religious intolerance that is objectively manifesting itself in prejudice and discrimination and is obliterating the First Amendment, civil rights, and the U.S. Constitution.”
U.S Representative John Culberson (R-TX) confirmed that the Houston National Cemetery was preventing Christian prayers from being said at Military funerals. The Veterans Administartion settled a lawsuit filed by the Liberty Institute regarding religious freedom and free speech at the cemetery. The VA agreed to terms involving restoration of religious policy and paid legal fees in the amount of $215,000.
What about the murder and persecution of Christians around the world? Why hasn’t the current Administration denounced the behavior? Is that a nod for Religious discrimination by our President? He has been quite vocal on the rights of Muslims in the United States, why not Christians?
“Chip” number five was a situation in the press most recently regarding monitoring of news stations by the FCC under the direction of President Obama. Did this threaten our “freedom of the press?” There was such an outcry over the potential monitoring that the FCC backed down for now. But will we see this come about in a different direction, under the table, without our knowledge?
The sixth “Chip” involves a local event involving students at a High School in California — wearing t-shirts with the American flag on Cinco de Mayo — who were asked to turn their shirts inside out or go home due to complaints and threats made to them by Mexican Students. The First Amendment law says the government should protect the speaker and not the “thugs” or those who threatened. However, in the Court case, the judge determined that students cannot display the American flag in an American School because they might offend and therefore be attacked. Does this seem right? Does this action teach the “hecklers” that they can suppress your free speech by simply threatening violence?
Our Founding Fathers were quite clear on their meaning of “free speech”:
“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 perdition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So, do you think your First Amendment rights are being chipped away?