Friday, August 26

Shocking Civil Rights: Congressman Steve Chabot

Congressman ChobatU.S. Congressman Steve Chabot, his staff, and Cincinnati police officers recently surprised constituents in Ohio by preventing them from filming a town hall meeting where the congressman was speaking (with threat of force). Eric Odom, who recently outlined everything wrong with the incident, rightly points out that the town hall meeting was a public event and held in a public place.

Apparently, Congressman Chabot forgot the oath he took upon entering office. Every congressman is required to take it.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Neither Congressman Chabot nor his staff ought to have asked police officers to bar phones that may record events. On the contrary, they should have defended the right of those in the audience to film the event. Likewise, the police officer ought to have considered his oath as they usually include "I will preserve the dignity and respect the rights of all individuals."


Explanations offered by the police officer included that he was doing what he was told and that freedom of the press does not include citizens. It is equally disturbing to think that any police officer, whose duty it is to protect and serve, would not have elected to protect the rights of the those filming the events as opposed to the request of the congressman or his staff.

After all, freedom of the press is not confined to journalists but to anyone who publishes, including citizens who attend public events.

Sure, there is always debate over what constitutes "the press" in the courts. And some people, newspapers included at times, have tried to distinguish themselves above citizens. However, there are several cases where the Supreme Court has already made it clear.

“...necessary to define those categories of newsmen who qualify for the privilege, a questionable procedure in light of the traditional doctrine that liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest photocomposition methods.” (408 U.S. at 704)

Further, as noted by JRPOF, the Supreme Court went on to observe that “freedom of the press is a ‘fundamental personal right . . . not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets . . . . The press in its historic connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.’” (quoting Lovell v. Griffin, 304 U.S. 444, 450, 452 (1938)

Without question, it seems to me, this easily extends to anyone who would film such an event and potentially publish it on YouTube despite dissenters who argue that freedom of the press extends only to a privileged few. In fact, what concerns me about such opinions is that when rights are limited, they cease to become rights. They become privileges, which are significantly different.

Ergo, privileges are granted and subject to being taken away. Whereas rights are different. They are inalienable. Had the founding fathers intended something different, they might have called the first 10 amendments the "Bill Of Privileges." On the contrary, the U.S. Constitution would not have been ratified had individual rights not been enumerated.

Public criticism convinces Congressman Chabot to rethink video.

According to Chabot spokesperson Jamie Schwartz, cameras will be allowed in the future. However, the spokesperson also defended the action, saying that the cameras were taken to protect the privacy of constituents. Using such flawed logic, no public discourse would be allowed to be recorded by anyone.

Likewise, anyone who thinks the blunder is a Republican one ought to think again. Ignorant elected officials from both parties (and other parties for that matter) demonstrated lapses of memory and common sense in the face of criticism. It wasn't long ago that Democratic leaders thought to censor Twitter.

But this is also why it remains vital that people are vigilant to protect their rights over their party affiliations. If we don't, then politicians will likely burn up individual rights from both ends. Good night, good luck, and have a great weekend.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template