Donald Trump & First Amendment — He’d Gut It

As a businessman, Donald Trump is a blackkmailer. As a candidate, he’s a bully. As a president, he would be a world-class tyrant.

In his 1644 work Areopagitica, John Milton proclaimed, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” Indeed, there is no greater cause of liberty than the sanctity of a free mind and the faculty to act according to it. In fact, without free thinking, no other rights matter or make sense.

Our conscience exalts us over, as the Bible puts its, “the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (That’s from the Book of Genesis, found in the Old Testament, Mr. Trump). Nothing makes us more human than the ability to reason according to our ethics and our experiences. When we lose our right to think freely, we lose our very humanity. Look no further than the Soviet Union and North Korea, just two of the most recent examples of regimes crushing their people so brutally that they no longer could safeguard their natural right to autonomy. These regimes’ victims could not defend themselves against the state. They could not provide for themselves. They could not advocate for themselves. They could not protect their basic human dignity. And they certainly couldn’t pursue happiness as they saw it.

America’s Founders understood quite clearly that only free minds could secure a free society. President James Madison, who authored the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, insisted, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.” John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, agreed. “Security under our constitution is given to the rights of conscience and private judgment,” he explained. “They are by nature subject to no control but that of Deity, and in that free situation they are now left.” President Thomas Jefferson reaffirmed this principle, arguing, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprise of the civil authority.”

For 21st-century Americans, there is no greater threat to this innate human right than Donald Trump. Time and time again, he has sought to silence those who dare disagree with him. He has meted out swift retribution to those who have acted in opposition to his aims or desires. And he promises to continue in this vein as president. A few weeks ago, the reality-television star sent Senator Ted Cruz a cease-and-desist letter, ordering his opponent to take down verifiably true television advertisements about Trump’s pro-abortion record. If Cruz refused, Trump warned, he would face a lawsuit in court challenging his citizenship eligibility to be president. In front of the whole world, Donald Trump attempted to blackmail Cruz, as though we live in Venezuela and not the United States of America. It’s Trump’s world, and in it, you are no longer to speak the truth about Donald Trump.

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