Commentary by Chuck Muth: Don’t be a chicken; stand up for free speech
For the Nevada Appeal
At the annual Conservative Leadership Conference that my organization, Citizen Outreach Foundation, hosted last weekend, political pundit Jon Ralston, on a panel discussing media bias, asked the audience how many people thought we were living in a socialist country today. Only a smattering of hands went into the air.
After the panel, I suggested to Jon that had he asked how many people thought the country was moving in a socialist direction, the hand-pumping would have been darned near unanimous.
The most prominent evidence today, of course, is ObamaCare. However, the never-ending assault on free speech in this country, especially political speech, has been nothing short of frightening – including right here in Nevada.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Ross Miller actually went to a judge requesting that the court ban a TV commercial which did nothing more than communicate positive information about Brian Sandoval, a Republican candidate for governor. Nothing in the ad was false, misleading or even negative. Nor did it call for the election or defeat of any candidate.
So what’s the beef?
Well, according to Miller, the group of citizens behind the ad didn’t properly “register” with his Ministry of Truth. In Millerland, the right to free speech is fine … as long as you get the government’s permission first.
And don’t dress up like a chicken.
That’s right. In one of the most bizarre dictates by a government apparatchik in recent memory, Ross Miller issued a statewide decree this week banning citizens from wearing chicken suits near election sites!
Our Minister of Truth claims a state law prohibiting “any badge, button or insigne which is designed or tends to aid or promote the success or defeat of any political party, candidate or ballot question” within 100 feet of a polling location also applies to wearing a chicken suit. Which is clucking ridiculous.
The Constitution, which still applies in Nevada (for now anyway), clearly states that the government “shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech … or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”
There’s simply no amendment to the First Amendment which says, “unless those people are dressed up like giant chickens.”
For as long as Americans have enjoyed the God-given right of free speech, the government has been trying to curtail it. It started with the Alien and Sedition Acts and continues today with McCain-Feingold. And now, thanks to Ross Miller, we have “Checkpoint Chicken” outposts in front of polling locations.
To their great credit, and in the finest American tradition, some Nevada voters have been showing up to vote in chicken costumes anyway, literally “flipping the bird” to our Secretary of State-Controlled Speech. They understand what Ross Miller clearly doesn’t:
The danger to freedom isn’t speech; it’s the government.
• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a limited-government public policy organization.