Letter: DEI — The censorship crusade continues

Posted 7/1/24

To the editor:

I remain gob smacked by the lack of legal acuity and common sense demonstrated by Braxton Cloutier, Town Council, and Larry Berren, DEI Chair, attorneys both.  

One …

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Letter: DEI — The censorship crusade continues

Posted

To the editor:

I remain gob smacked by the lack of legal acuity and common sense demonstrated by Braxton Cloutier, Town Council, and Larry Berren, DEI Chair, attorneys both. 

One might expect, right off the bat, that you have a basic grasp of the First Amendment. Spoiler alert: nope. Case in point, Mr. Berren’s recent proclamation at a Town Council meeting, “What we want to keep out of that is angry speech, threatening speech, speech that is profane.” Why do you continue to test what’s already settled law? Are you looking for another legal challenge? Ever heard of FAFO (fool around and find out)? 

Gentlemen, allow me to share some classic quotes from the Supreme Court legends to educate you on why your censorship ambitions are, to put it charitably, misguided. 

Justice Harlan, Cohen v. California, (1971): “One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric...That the air may at times seem filled with verbal cacophony is, in this sense, not a sign of weakness but of strength.”

Justice Brennan, FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, (1978): “The constitutional right of free expression is powerful medicine in a society as diverse and populous as ours. It is designed and intended to remove government restraints from the arena of public discussion, putting the decision as to what views shall be voiced largely into the hands of each of us.”

Justice Douglas, Terminiello v. Chicago, (1949): “Accordingly, a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.”

And there are countless other “Supreme” statements of affirmation similar to those quoted around the first amendment!

While your intentions may be altruistic, even meritorious, they don’t hold up against the robust, unyielding, demands of the Bill of Rights. The government cannot, and should not, restrict free speech in a public setting unless it’s inciting violence. Period. End of discussion. 

So, kudos to Councilors Kustell and Berard for getting it. 

Braxton and Larry, no one elevated you to the position of “speech sheriff” to hand out citations for hurt feelings. 

Scott Fuller

Barrington

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.