Government shouldn’t be speech police


Some politicians lie. Some bend the truth. And some tell it like it is.

We all know that. And, frankly, it is tough to determine who is speaking the truth and who is not.

Some folks want the government to make that call for us — to be the speech police.

That is a dangerous road to go down. Allowing the government to decide what is a lie — or an opinion — and have the power to punish the alleged liar will have a chilling effect on free speech for political candidates or activists.

Yet, efforts to enact laws that do just that continue to be proposed, even approved, across the nation. It was tried in Washington state, but the proposal was eventually cast aside.

But Ohio has imposed such a law. And that law, which has been challenged as an abridgment of the First Amendment, is now being scrutinized by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court heard arguments in the case on Tuesday and, based on its questions and comments, appears to see flaws in Ohio’s law filtering political speech.

The Ohio law calls for those determined to be fibbers to serve jail time or pay a fine for the first offense. A second conviction could result in the loss of the right to vote.

“They (the accused) have to answer this charge that they lied, and just that alone is going to diminish the effect of their speech,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

Justice Stephen Breyer wondered how the Ohio Election Commission would decide whether a particular statement qualified as false enough for prosecution. If someone charged a candidate with voting to murder cats, he said, how would the commission handle a statement like that?

“Do you prosecute that or not?”

The Ohio Election Commission — the government — has no businesses serving as a de facto judge or referee in political debate.

It is up to the voters through their ballots to make the ultimate decision on a politician’s veracity and integrity. If voters are wrong, which does happen, they would pay the price for electing a person who bends, shades or shatters the truth.

The Supreme Court needs to reject this law to make it clear government has no role as the speech police.


namvet60 11 months ago

Political correctness has gone way overboard. Some of these people should get a life instead of getting there little feelings hurt.


NewInWW 11 months ago

Indeed, in the mid-80's - when the Ohio law was adopted - political correctness was widely believed to be completely out of control.


PearlY 11 months ago

Not sure what your point was, but I believe the Ohio law was adopted in the mid-90s.


PearlY 11 months ago

“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” Barack Obama, March 15, 2010, at a speech in Strongsville, Ohio.

I don't believe charges were ever filed (and no doubt the statute of limitations has run) but then, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor in whose jurisdiction Obama committed this crime is a Democrat. And therein is the evil of this kind of law: Prosecutors are political party animals and they get to decide whom to charge for "false" political speech. To expect those decisions to be made neutrally and with integrity is absurd.


stvsngltn 11 months ago

Everyone has -- at one time or another -- made statements that are incorrect. Everyone. It's only a lie if they knew what they said was incorrect before they said it. That can be difficult to determine or prove. The editorial is right on.


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