When A Newspaper Editorial Board Doesn’t Understand the First Amendment

The Kansas City Star editorial board published an editorial that suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of what the First Amendment does and doesn’t do.

Here’s the lede: “Here’s a brief refresher course on the First Amendment we all studied in the seventh grade: Individuals in America are free to express their opinions and beliefs.”

The problem? They left out a key concept. Among several rights, the First Amendment gives individuals the freedom to express their opinions and beliefs without government restriction.

As the editorial points out, this includes making political statements and declaring support for elected officials, including Donald Trump. But, this is simply wrong:

“…no matter what you think of President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mantra or policies, you don’t have the right to belittle or attack someone on the other end of the political spectrum.”

The truth is that the First Amendment doesn’t say anything about individuals voicing their political opinions or belittling someone on the other end of the political spectrum. It might be rude or insulting, but just as one individual is free to state their support of Trump, others are free to say they don’t like it.

This is not to pick sides in any particular case. The point here is that the First Amendment bars government control of speech, but it does not absolve individuals from consequences or from responses from other individuals.