First Amendment as Government’s Toy

Aug 5, 2019 by

“When public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, they are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communication from employer discipline”.  (Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410)

What exactly does it mean?  Probably its intent was not to have an exact meaning because that would lend it to precise application and it sounds the Supreme Court wanted to set up a tool for selective rendering, depending on the personalities involved. Ambiguity and capricious relevance is often the goal of the wording of governmental control of our behavior. It’s meticulously crafted to be sloppy and subject to deliberate enforcement error that can not be pinned down as such.

Does the Supreme Court mean that when I’m on the clock in the classroom discharging my “official duties” as a public school teacher,  I must strictly adhere  to the Department of Education’s authorized version of history, interpretations of scientific theory as it may affect national policy, or the moral lessons extrapolated from the behavior of characters in literature, etc?

The First Amendment is a curiously malleable document with pertinence that can be borrowed promiscuously as a cover for nefarious mischief. Sometimes it’s the government itself that misappropriates it. It is trotted out by believers of every stripe who claim it as their unique proprietary vindication. It’s like a “universal remote” that any group of advocates can use to put on society’s big screen their own impassioned vanities

The First Amendment is a friend to rogues no less than to everyone else, which is what makes it a travesty and a glory at the same time. It smirks and smiles on folks of every design and we all hold it as coveted intellectual property.

But let’s not all hail the First Amendment as our champion. Because it is often invoked as the default cover for unwarranted vindication, it can be arguably an enabler of ugly behavior and definitely as a reliable source for the suppression of the free expression is should be upholding. 

Such as the right of teachers to transact ideas to students without the threat of damage to their standing in the eyes of government.

Ron Isaac

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