PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 3717, BROADCAST DECENCY ENFORCEMENT ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - March 11, 2004)
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(Mr. PAUL asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the resolution, but I would like to express a few views on why I will oppose the legislation.
I am convinced that the Congress has been a very poor steward of the first amendment, and we are moving in the direction of further undermining the first amendment with this legislation.
First, many years ago, it was an attack on commercial speech by dividing commercial and noncommercial speech, which the Constitution does not permit. Then there was a systematic attack from the left, writing rules against hate speech which introduced the notion of political correctness. Recently, there was a petition to the Department of Justice that has asked the Department to evaluate "The Passion of Christ" as an example of hate speech. Unintended consequences do occur.
Next came along a coalition between right and left, and there was an attack on campaign speech with the campaign finance reform with a suspension of freedom of speech during an election period.
Now, once again, we are attacking indecency, which we all should, but how we do it is critical; because "indecency" is a subjective term, and it has yet to be defined by the courts.
We should remember that the Congress very clearly by the Constitution is instructed to: "make no laws abridging the freedom of speech." It cannot be any clearer. If we have problems with indecency they are to be solved in different manners. The excuse, because the government is responsible and owns the airwaves, that we can suspend the first amendment is incorrect. That is a good argument for privatizing the airwaves rather than an excuse for suspension of the first amendment.
I would like to close by quoting someone who is obviously not a libertarian and obviously not a liberal who has great concern about what we are doing, and he comes from the conservative right, Rush Limbaugh. He said: "If the government is going to 'censor' what they think is right and wrong, what happens if a whole bunch John Kerrys or Terry McAuliffes start running this country and decide conservative views are leading to violence? I am in the free speech business. It is one thing for a company to determine if they are going to be a party to it. It is another thing for the government to do it."
Mr. Speaker, we all should be in the free speech business.