Third Party & Independents Archives

Is Mr. Robertson's Speech Protected?

A firestorm of commentary has been generated every since Pat Robertson, one-time Republican presidential candidate and leader of the 1.5 million member Christian Coalition advocated the assassination of Venezuelan presiden Hugo Chavez. Mr. Robertson has since apologized (kind of), and perhaps the matter is put to bed. Or is it? Do Pat Robertson’s comments fall under the protection of the citizens’ first amendment rights to free speech? Or, are his comments so incendiary that it endangers the national security of the United States and should he be punished in some way?

Suprement Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic". One wonders whether or not the statements made by Pat Robertson on Monday are protected under the 1st amendment. Where does the protection of free speech end? Would speech still be protected if it endangered the national security of the United States? Does Pat Robertson's standing in the community as a political leader and public figure put us more at risk from retaliation by Chavez than an ordinary pubic citizen with little to no public face? Does speech change protections based on the speaker's public standing? It seems reasonable to assume that me, you or any other citizen advocating the assassination of a foreign governmental official is less dangerous to the US than if someone like a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the Executive administration or the Congress says this. I believe it is against the law for a governmental employee to advocate assassinations. However, if a public citizen does is it protected speech? Any constitutional lawyers out there? I'd like know what is protected and what isn't. Does Robertson get a bye because he is simply a public citizen, or does he get held to higher standard because of his public image and visibility?

Tell me what you think,

Best Regards,

Posted by Dennis at August 25, 2005 12:04 PM