LBJ and the sixty-year assault on the First Amendment

Since 1954, the First Amendment's Freedom of Speech protection has been withheld from entire groups of law-abiding American citizens.  Photo: Constitution

NEWYORK, April 13, 2013 ― Although it is now entrenched in our understanding of the First Amendment, the prohibition against tax-exempt organizations from discussing a political candidate is less than sixty years old. 

In 1954, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson proposed an amendment to a bill, which restricted all tax-exempt organizations from participating in political speech. Now known as the Johnson Amendment, this prohibition acts to nullify the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech protection not only for every non-profit group, but also every house of worship in the entire country.

But where does the government get this power to withhold the First Amendment and restrict entire groups of people from participating in the political process? Did we not write the Bill of Rights to specifically outline the freedoms that government could never violate?

How backwards have we become to pervert the First Amendment into protecting cross burning, and nude dancing while (with the same wording) prohibiting free political speech?  The entire purpose of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was to safeguard the liberties of a free people and to enshrine in law their defense from the threat of tyranny. 

Why else would the founders include freedom of speech in a document designed to defend citizens from government, if not to protect political speech from the politicians who would silence it? Political speech is what the founders intended to protect from government oppression, and that is exactly what is being steadily eliminated today.  

Do you really think that our founding fathers, whose primary concern was preserving liberty from government, would write the first amendment to protect Darlene[1] running naked through the streets, while pastors and priests alike are forcibly silenced?

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If students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate”[2] why must a pastor shed his at the pulpit?

Holy Books like the Bible discuss topics like taxes, wages, contracts, just forms of government and more. Does that not make these topics just as religious as they are political? Yet, they are still silenced under the law, violating not only the Free Speech clause but also the Freedom of Religion clauses of the First Amendment.

Perhaps today is the day, in which we admit that the freedom of speech is only truly protected for the corrupt and the debased?

Even worse, however, is that this prohibition is growing under the guise of campaign reform. With Supreme Court cases from Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, to Citizens United in 2010, we find that an alarming number of people in this nation are promoting the dangerous idea that any speech that stands in the way of their ideology can and should be limited or worse, silenced all together.

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But this cannot be, for in a free and just society, the answer to speech you oppose is not to shut people up, but to prove them wrong. The answer to bad speech is, and must always be more speech.

Despite the fact that the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause makes no mention of limiting itself to only “people,” entire groups are being threatened and silenced because they have pooled their efforts, and used an organization to better communicate their political ideas. Yet, organizations, just as individuals must have a right to free speech, for the government has no authority to stop them.  

Our Constitution has not failed, but rather has been disregarded. Due to our tolerance of lesser men holding high office, we have sat idly by as the Constitution has been perverted for personal gain and political profit. 

Fortunately, however, groups are beginning to pop up all over the nation, such as the Alliance Defense Fund, who held their fourth annual “Pulpit Initiative” to challenge the IRS into forgoing this Unconstitutional power. There also is HR 127, a bill to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which has been proposed by Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina’s Third District. 

A free and democratic society cannot long endure without a well-informed and politically active people. To protect this well-informed and active population, we must uphold the Constitution, which when followed, will safeguard us from the ever-present dangers of governmental tyranny.

[1] Barnes v. Glen Theatre 1991

[2] Tinker v. Des Moines 1969

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Stephen Boniberger

Born and raised on Long Island, New York, Stephen Boniberger is a Junior at St. John's University where he is a Pre-Law student double-majoring in Political Science and History with a minor in Classics. 

In addition to speaking four languages, and being Vice President for St. John’s University’s College Republicans, Stephen also founded the Young Americans for Freedom Chapter at St. John's University where he is currently the chapter’s Chairman and President.

Influenced by John Locke, William Blackstone, and the Founding Fathers, Stephen identifies himself as a Reagan Conservative, a strong proponent of Originalist Constitutional interpretation, and is well versed in an array of topics ranging from Politics and International Relations to Philosophy and Constitutional Law.  

Contact Stephen Boniberger


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