Posted by: Inside-Out Peace | October 1, 2010

Free Speech is Not a Defense for Andrew Shirvell

CNN reported on September 29, 2010:

For nearly six months, Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan, has waged an internet campaign against college student Chris Armstrong, the openly gay student assembly president at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. […]

Shirvell acknowledged protesting outside of Armstrong’s house and calling him “Satan’s representative on the student assembly.”

Predictably, Shirvell is invoking the First Amendment right to freedom of speech to defend his putrid blog and protests.  After all, the First Amendment means everyone gets to say everything they want, anytime they want to, right?  Wrong. 

We all know, or should know, that it is illegal to shout “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theater when there is, in fact, no fire.  But why is that?  It’s because we can easily foresee that it will cause damage to other people.  Our right to free speech is limited, as it should be, by the responsibility to use it in a way that does not infringe on the natural rights of others to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. 

Shirvell’s harrassment infringed on Chris Armstrong’s rights to liberty and happiness, on the basis of Armstrong’s sexual orientation – which means I should really include “life” as well, being that one’s sexual orientation is an intrinsic part of one’s life.  By not accepting the responsibilities inherent in the First Amendment, Shirvell gives up his claim to the rights of it as well.


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