Congress Shall Make No Law: Protecting the First Amendment from Attack

The Heritage Foundation held an event on today to address the “All-Out Assault on the First Amendment.”  Hosted by Hans von Spakovsky, the panel was comprised of distinguished public policy and research professionals like Christina Hoff Sommers, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; RNLA Advisory Council Member Robert Alt, President, Buckeye Institute; John C. Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service, Chapman University Fowler School of Law, and Senior Fellow, The Claremont Institute; and RNLA Advisory Council Member Cleta Mitchell, Partner, Foley & Lardner LLP.

The discussion started with a profound statement from Ms. Mitchell, that the 5 most beautiful words in the English language are: “Congress shall make no law… “


Ms. Mitchell further stated that the left is turning that phrase on its head, and the First Amendment is being used to protect the government from the people and not vice versa. This is the exact opposite of the Founders' purpose for including that clause. She uses the composition of the Federal Election Commission to discuss a troubling example. The Commission is supposed to be a bipartisan group of individuals, yet prior to Hans von Spakovsky, Brad Smith, and Don McGahn becoming Commissioners, there regularly was one Republican who seemed to be conservative in name only and continuously voted with the Democrats. This issue compromised the integrity of the Commission. Additionally, she added comments about the recent scandal with the IRS targeting of conservatives, noting Commissioner Koskinen’s long history of solely supporting liberal candidates and the implicit bias that comes along with that support; the John Doe investigation in Wisconsin; and the enforcement of political speech codes in Montana.


Robert Alt spoke from personal experience as his conservative organization was targeted and audited by the IRS. Mr. Alt thinks preventing the attack on the First Amendment can only be done through fighting back against speech suppressive activity. He brought up the examples of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) receiving a subpoena related to its climate change research and how the state of California was requiring charities to turn over their Schedule B donor disclosures to the state with very little assurance that that information would be kept confidential. CEI fought back in the legal courts and the courts of public opinion against the subpoena that sought information including the donors to the organization. In this instance, free speech won.


The rest of the discussants added commentary on free speech on college campuses and the free exercise of religion and how those are both under attack as well.


All panelists stressed how pivotal this election is and further noted that citizens considering a candidate that supports individuals and policies which strip constitutional rights away, means we all lose in the end.