My experiences with the Mormon Church’s attempts to suppress freedom of speech within the Church, using ecclesiastical power, make me very leery of allowing the heavier power of the government to fine people or throw them in jail for speech. So it seems very short-sighted to me when many commentators put concerns about money in politics ahead of concerns about maintaining the freedom of speech that fosters desperately needed information processing at the social level.
As a result, I give props to federal judge Rudolph Randa who in issuing a preliminary injunction on Tuesday ending the John Doe investigation of allies of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, wrote:
… the larger danger is giving government an expanded role in uprooting all forms of perceived corruption which may result in corruption of the First Amendment itself.
He also wrote:
O'Keefe and the Club obviously agree with Governor Walker’s policies … but coordinated ads in favor of those policies carry no risk of corruption because the Club’s interests are already aligned with Walker and other conservative politicians.
Concerns about corruption must never be a stalking horse for criminalizing speech that is objectionable primarily because it deeply offends one’s political sensibilities.
Is freedom of speech really important enough that we should risk an excessive role of money in politics? This is a genuine tradeoff, but our answer should be yes. It is worth sacrificing a lot for freedom of speech. To me, freedom of speech is sacred because it is necessary for seeking truth. So for over a year, every other week, I have built my Sunday religion post around a passage from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. I hope you will read On Liberty closely along with me to see if you don’t weigh the importance of freedom of speech more highly–even relative to other very important values–after pondering John’s argument.
1. You can see all the posts based on On Liberty in my Religion, Sciences and Humanities sub-blog:
2. On truth as a sacred value, see the discussion on this Facebook post: