I was listening to the radio the other day, and I heard that the city of Bountiful, Utah, has banned visible tattoos on city employees:
City officials have banned employees from having tattoos in easily visible places in an effort to make sure employees put city government in a good light.
The policy mirrors that of the Los Angeles Police Department, which bans tattoos on the face, neck, head and hands.
Several people, including the show hosts, were questioning the legality of this rule claiming that it violates the freedom of speech of the people tattooed.
Accepting for the nonce that a tattoo is “speech,” it is well within the rights of the city, or any employer, to set a dress code for its employees. If you are unwilling to abide by the dress code of a company, why apply for a job there? But the city dress code doesn’t violate the free speech of tattooed people. They are free to tattoo themselves any place they like, but they do not possess a corresponding right to be hired by the city.
But the talk show hosts and some of the callers are not the only people who don’t understand the freedom of speech. A large segment of the U.S. population is equally ill-informed, as exposed by a recent Rasmussen poll:
Nearly half of Americans (47%) believe the government should require all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary, but they draw the line at imposing that same requirement on the Internet. Thirty-nine percent (39%) say leave radio and TV alone, too.
It’s obvious from this poll that 47% of Americans surveyed don’t understand the part of the First Amendment dealing with speech, so here it is: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …” Congress had already attempted to abridge this with the Fairness Doctrine, but it was finally removed in the ’80s. As it was abolished, the FCC recognized that the Fairness Doctrine succeeded in limiting speech, not enhancing it.
If Congress were to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine as these 47% think they should, it would be a clear case of Congress making a law abridging the freedom of speech and of the press. After all, the owners and operators of the radio and television stations would no longer have the freedom to plan their own show lineups. They would have to obey the law telling them how to run their stations.
The report goes on to explain that 31% of those surveyed believe that internet sites should also be balanced. That would mean that for every right-leaning conservative piece I post on my site, I would have to allow an equal-length left-leaning liberal piece to be posted.
But I won’t allow that.
You see, it’s my site, my code, and other than the occasional posts by my wife, it’s my opinions. If people disagree with my opinions, they are just as free to get their own sites and publish their own opinions. My freedom of speech on my site does not limit the freedom of others to voice their own opinions on their own sites. But once the government steps in and mandates that I must allow someone else equal time on my site just to provide “balance” to my opinions, then the government is limiting my freedom to post what I will on my site.
If the government were to force me to obey the Fairness Doctrine, I would instead choose to close down the blog. The end result of “fairness” and “balance” would be less free speech, not more, but I have to believe that is the real and unspoken goal of the proponents of the Fairness Doctrine. And that is why I believe that too many Americans don’t understand the true nature of freedom of speech.