I think we've been noticing a disturbing trend among the Religious Right in their attempts to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. They have, for some time, been developing an ethical framework in which someone can do something, or refuse to do something, and expect to be protected from the consequences if they say that their personal morality told them to do it. We see it in those "right to conscience" laws for doctors that get them out of professional discipline if they refuse to provide treatment to women. We saw it in how Sarah Palin complained that anyone disagreeing her violated her Constitutional right to free speech.
And now we're seeing it in this lawsuit filed by supporters of Prop 8 in order to seal the names of donors to the campaign.
"Plaintiffs and other supporters of Proposition 8 have been subjected to threats, harassment, and reprisals as a result of their support for Proposition 8."
Here are a few examples of these "reprisals":
The threats and harassment have included threatening phone calls, emails, and postcards.
John Doe #4 (received multiple threatening emails including onethat read "hello propagators & litagators [sic] burn in hell" and another that read"congratulations. for your support of prop 8, you have won our tampon of the year award.")
John Doe #6 (postcard chastising her for her financial support of Proposition 8)
John Doe #4 (received email that read "I AM BOYCOTTING YOUR ORGANIZATION AS A RESULT OF YOUR SUPPORT OF PROP 8" and another that read "I will tell all my friends not to use your business. I will not give you my hard earned money knowing that you think I don't deserver [sic] the same rights as you do. This is a consequence of your hatred.")
They also claim that there was a death threat sent to a donor, which should of course be investigated.
But their main argument is patently ridiculous. They're claiming that their free speech is being violated because people might not donate in the future if they know they could get a postcard telling them that they're a bad person, but their lawsuit would only prevent other people from exercising their own free speech and free association rights.
Put in context, though, they're asking for more than to silence their critics. They're really asking to be relieved from any of the consequences of their speech. It takes a sense of entitlement to make a claim like that, since no one is free from the consequences of what she or he says.
For example, if, at the workplace, a manager sends out a racist email disparaging Black people to the people she manages, then she would, could, and should be fired. We understand that it creates a hostile workplace for everyone else there, it decreases productivity, it opens up the company to bias lawsuits, and possibly violates the company's ethical mission, and people don't have a problem with her being removed.
If, at school, a student tells his teachers to "Go fuck yourself" whenever they tell him to do something, he could be expelled. It disrupts class, is disrespectful to teachers, and creates an environment hostile to learning. No one's debating his First Amendment rights there.
In social situations, if someone says something deemed unacceptable by others, then that person could be ostracized from that group. Or they could get into a shouting fight. Or maybe everyone will just find and excuse to go home and never call that person again. In fact, we informally impose on one another serious restrictions on free speech because people want to be respected and have friends. But we can't make a law against those restrictions.
The only place where people really have free speech is when they're shouting in the street corner. But there's no power there, few people really listen to someone shouting there, and it's not denying a forum to others for them to spout off about whatever is on their minds. When speech has the power to affect other people's lives (like campaign contributions), others will react.
But this lawsuit in California is not the first time the donors to these campaigns have tried to hide who's giving what. In Florida, as Waymon reported before the election, supporters of Amendment 2 created a 501(c)(4) and promised donors anonymity. The LDS Church has hidden the costs of services donated to the Yes on 8 campaign.
The hypocrisy of the lawsuit should be lost on no one. It was the Yes campaign who was threatening people before the election (and if they had lost, I'm sure they'd have continued). Remember the City Council member who got threatened with recall because of his endorsement of a No vote?
Evan Low, who serves on the Campbell City Council, reported this week that he had received threats from half a dozen people that if he did not rescind his endorsement against Prop 8 he would be recalled from office.
"I have received seven calls today threatening to recall me from office if I do not publicly retract my position and switch to Yes on 8," Low informed supporters in an e-mail Wednesday, October 29. "The Yes on 8 campaign is continuing their efforts of deception and coercion. Let's have a strong showing during this final stretch."
They sent certified letters demanding money to their campaigns. The No campaign didn't bully anyone into donating, as far as I know.
Putting out the negative election propaganda is one thing. Committing a crime while doing it is another. In my opinion, the Yes on 8 people have broken the law big-time with their recent attempt at extorting money from businesses that went on the public record as opposing Prop 8.
ProtectMarriage.com sent out certified letters to businesses that had made donations to Equality California, a leading nonprofit that is campaigning against Proposition 8. The letter baldly threatened: "Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com... Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage....The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published." The letter was signed by four of the organization's executive committee members, including one Catholic and one Mormon, as well as an attorney.
And yet... it's us who's the problem here? They started this ballot measure in the first place! They should expect people to be a little upset!
That's why I feel they've earned the title of "chickenhawks." They're the ones who made up this phony war between social justice and religion. They're the ones who say that the other side is out to destroy the country. But then they're the ones who think others should put everything on the line in this fight. The moment it might actually discomfort some of these folks, they want to call a time out. A war isn't any fun if I have to fight in it.
It takes a lot of entitlement, cowardice, and chutzpah to file a suit like this, but the Yes campaign has all three in spades. Just like those Republicans, especially the young, rich, country-club Republicans, who wanted a war on Iraq and beat their drums hard for it, but couldn't go fight in it because... well, because that's for common people, these chickenhawks of the Culture War want to fight a nice, pleasant battle to enact their political goals. It doesn't matter who suffers, as long as they don't.
They used their money to engage in political speech. There are social reprisals afterwards. It's that simple. As Glenn Greenwald put it:
The First Amendment is actually not that complicated. It can be read from start to finish in about 10 seconds. It bars the Government from abridging free speech rights. It doesn't have anything to do with whether you're free to say things without being criticized, or whether you can comment on blogs without being edited, or whether people can bar you from their private planes because they don't like what you've said.
Or whether you can donate to a political campaign without receiving mean postcards.
Then again, Constitutional law isn't really the right wing's forté.