Byron York blows the whistle on Democratic legislation, about to be enacted by Congress, which purports to partially repeal the First Amendment:
The [hate] crime bill — which would broaden the protected classes for hate crimes to include sexual orientation and “gender identity,” which the bill defines as a victim’s “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics” — passed the House earlier this year as a stand-alone measure. But it’s never had the votes to succeed by itself in the Senate. So over the summer Democrats, with the power of their 60-vote majority, attached it to the defense [appropriations] bill.
Republicans argued that the two measures had nothing to do with each other. Beyond that, GOP lawmakers feared the new bill could infringe on First Amendment rights in the name of preventing broadly defined hate crimes. The bill’s critics, including many civil libertarians, argued that the hate crimes provision could chill freedom of speech by empowering federal authorities to accuse people of inciting hate crimes, even if the speech in question was not specifically related to a crime.
Republican Sen. Sam Brownback offered an amendment saying the bill could not be “construed or applied in a manner that infringes on any rights under the First Amendment” and could not place any burden on the exercise of First Amendment rights “if such exercise of religion, speech, expression, or association was not intended to plan or prepare for an act of physical violence or incite an imminent act of physical violence against another.”
The Senate passed Brownback’s amendment. After that, several Republicans, their fears allayed, voted for the whole defense/hate crimes package, which passed the Senate last July. …
Then it was time for the House and Senate bills to go to a conference committee, where the differences between them would be ironed out. That’s where the real action began.
First, the committee — controlled by majority Democrats, of course — inserted the hate crimes measure into the House bill, where it had not been before. Then lawmakers made some crucial changes to Brownback’s amendment. Where Brownback had insisted, and the full Senate had agreed, that the bill could not burden the exercise of First Amendment rights, the conference changed the wording to read that the bill could not burden the exercise of First Amendment rights “unless the government demonstrates … a compelling governmental interest” to do otherwise.
That means your First Amendment rights are protected — unless they’re not.
Needless to say, the First Amendment does not contain a “compelling governmental interest” exception. Legally, of course, no statute can trump the Constitution. But that doesn’t mean the Democrats can’t try, and it doesn’t mean that Barack Obama’s intensely politicized Justice Department won’t try to bring criminal prosecutions against the administration’s political opponents. Indeed, that appears to be the destination the Democrats have in mind when they continually try to demonize opposition to left-wing policies as “hate speech.”