Lies, Truth, and Consequences

Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.
William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 1, Act 5, Sc. 4

Who knew?

All these years, I believed the First Amendment protected the right to publish or say anything you like without government interference. And while implicit in that is the “right” to lie, I always believed the First Amendment does not protect one from the consequences of false statements.

Some attorneys believe it does and have argued such in motions in court.

Where was this defense when I was a kid growing up and got caught doing something I shouldn’t?

It seems some would have us accept that the First Amendment is the ultimate shield to bearing any responsibility for their actions. If we accept that lying about anything is a constitutional right, it does not mean immunity from any criminal acts resulting from those lies.

Here’s a hypothetical. Let’s say someone in a position to know tells me my vote was changed. Based on that, I attack the institution named as responsible. Since I believed this person, even if they were lying about it for their own gain, I must be immune from any responsibility.

They had the right to lie, I had the right to accept the delusion and act on it.


To refresh everyone’s concepts of the two major forms of writing or stating false statements, we have these definitions in the English language.

Defamation: the act of defaming; false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another, as by slander or libel; calumny:

Libel: defamation by written, printed, or broadcast words or pictures.

Thus, the government, under most circumstances, cannot stop anyone from writing or saying anything before they publish or proclaim it—there is no prior restraint—with very few exceptions. Let’s say a government official who claims to have Top Secret material and intends to show it to individuals without clearance in locations incapable of providing adequate protections. Some would have us believe this is perfectly acceptable even if they were lying about it.

But there are some practical and ethical limitations here which any mature adult would recognize as reasonable given their positions and experience.

For example,

If I were to publish a blog piece saying I intended to launch a nuclear attack on some country, no one would be alarmed or concerned.

If a sitting President were to do the same thing—perfectly lawful in the eyes of some legal counsel and others—it might be more problematic.

If I were to claim the US Government is orchestrating a wide-ranging conspiracy to conceal a child sex trafficking ring from an obscure Pizza Parlor controlled by current and former government officials, most people would believe I had been over-served in a bar, experimented with some mind-altering substances, or just was plain Loonie-tunes. I mean, come on, who would believe it?

If the Attorney General of the United States were to make a similar claim, people would be up in arms demanding an investigation and criminal proceedings. That the Attorney General has a First Amendment right to lie hardly mitigates the damage such a statement, from a person in that position, causes.

And so it is with the current situation we find ourselves in America. The public relations campaign is attempting to find a believable, and lawfully defensible, rationale for claiming the election of 2020 was tainted, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Yet the best they can come up with is a First Amendment right to say or write anything, including lies.

How that mitigates the criminality arising from such lies is beyond comprehension.

Next time some ten-year-old is standing near a broken window and says “Wasn’t me” keep in mind a former President and a significant number of Americans believe he has every right to do so. They conveniently leave out the part that, under the First Amendment, while you may lie about anything and everything, it does not mitigate the truth or the consequences.

Shakespeare said it best.

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet' (1601) act 1, sc. 3, l. 58

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Heel, don’t Kneel

The First Amendment protects us from government restrictions on the free expression of one’s personal and political views. It is different within the private sector.

Employers may limit the exercise of free speech when it directly affects their business.

No one can argue this. To paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“An employee may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be employed.”

Aside from the legal arguments, there is a more significant issue at stake with the NFL ban on players taking a knee during the National Anthem.

While most Americans, regardless of their political leanings, freely stand during the National Anthem in gratitude for those who fought to preserve our way of life, implicit in that sacrifice is the right to do otherwise.

I often chafe at the inattentive, text-addicted, hats still on idiots who either stand because everyone else is or sit drinking beer when the anthem is played before a game. But it is their right to do so.

Ignorant, rude, or just downright asinine as it may be.

But I wouldn’t want to see uniformed police officers roaming through the crowd and hauling them off for it either. (I might find it momentarily amusing, aside from the serious constitutional issue.)

The NFL situation is different on two levels.

First, if this was an intrinsic element of the game, then the owners have every right to insist players comply.

It is not. It is a moment at most public venues where we pay homage to this nation. Which implies the right to express a different political opinion.

Second, and more critical, this wailing and gnashing of teeth that the constitutional guarantee of free speech has limitations in the private sector and players must comply with a workplace requirement is all a smokescreen to the real issue.

Americans do not like the very public reminder of the persistence of bigotry and prejudice. They do not like their sacred sports game marred by such a divisive issue. They prefer to keep it in the closet on game day, and then ignore it for the rest of the week.

To further illustrate the point, the protest must be working in raising the issue otherwise no one would care.

Which makes the restrictions put in place by the NFL, albeit legitimate under the most common interpretation of the Constitution, more troubling.

While the NFL owners have much latitude in controlling the players when they are “working,” to insist they can regulate free speech, during a ceremony that honors free speech, for the benefit of their bottom line, is troubling.

If it is that important an issue, fire them.

Remember, the first act of American patriotism was to challenge the King’s government for the right of freedom of expression.

Do we seek to return to the times of pledging loyalty to the government as a condition of being an American? Is it that some people miss the days when the government would ask “Are you, or have you ever been, a communist?”

While the NFL issue is minor in the big scheme of things, it is the conglomeration of little things, chipping away at liberties, that cause real damage. This issue may be nothing but a single termite, but termites are never alone.

Let the players take a knee, do backflips, or whatever. When the anthem plays, focus all the cameras on the Stars and Stripes flapping in the breeze above the flag-draped Bud Light advertisements.

An Open Invitation (To Prove Me Wrong)

In the spirit of the First Amendment and the free expression of ideas, this is an open imagesinvitation to submit an article to my blog.  I know many of you have different opinions and perspectives and welcome such submissions.

There are no restrictions or limitations other than keeping the post between 500-1000 words.

I have extended an invitation to a few readers but hope to encourage more discussions from a variety of perspectives. If interested please feel free to contact me. Once I have an idea on the number of submissions, I will schedule and post them weekly.

Here’s your chance to argue, persuade, or change people’s minds. Use this form to let me know you are interested.

Unless you all just want to concede that I am always right.

The Great Myth: Religious Tolerance in America

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or abridging the free exercise thereof…”  So say the first words of the First Amendment of the Constitution. However, those words, in their practical application, have been twisted into a false interpretation of their intent.first amendment

In the United States, these words are meant to prevent abridging the free exercise thereof if it is a Judeo-Christian flavor.

If Ford Motor Corporation refused to allow women employees to drive to work, or buy Ford cars, because of an interpretation of the Quran, what would the reaction be?

If Amazon needed a husband’s approval for any purchase by a woman, what would the reaction be?

If the State of Rhode Island accepted the decree of an Imam on the divorce of a couple and deprived the woman of any child custody or financial support, what would the reaction be?

In the 21st century, our President interjects himself into the personal lives of millions of American women out of concern for “risky sexual behavior” using the cover of supporting religious freedom.

All that one must do is look at the list of organizations that support these latest Dark Ages policy pronouncements to understand the real motivation. These groups miss the days of Biblical imposed male dominance over women. They yearn for a time when men clothed in the robes of priestly garb decided what is moral. They crave the past heyday of influence they once held over American society.

This incestuous intermixing of Christian religious philosophy with secular government is more dangerous to our freedoms than any ISIS terrorist because it comes from within.

No President, in particular, this President, has any place deciding what is moral. Humans have an innate sense of morality. Our problem is we often lose sight in our quest for bigger and better things. Where we’ve failed is in setting examples of responsible behavior for our children. Much of the failure of moral behavior takes place in the halls of Congress and the White House.

Religion does not hold an exclusive on morality. Turning back the clock based on the false memory of a more moral past is self-deception. The purpose of these acts is garnering political support under the false umbrella of religious freedom. Allowing any religious group to set standards is dangerous. How moral was the Catholic Church when faced with the altar boy crisis? And how complicit was our government in ignoring such “moral” behavior?

I don’t watch many TV shows, but I’ve been intrigued by the show The Handmaid’s Tale. It doesn’t take much of a leap of faith (pun intended) to envision an America where such a society could arise when backed by the power of government.

They would do it for our good because God told them so.

The history of moral standards by organizations, be it governmental or religious, is fraught with examples of disaster. Allowing companies to opt out of specific health care provisions under the guise of religious freedom is disingenuous. An ominous portent of sliding down a slippery slope to Theocracy.

What’s next? We can allow companies to end health care for people living with cancer. God gave them disease, who are we to cure it?