Fight for free speech is always appropriate

More than a century ago, Evelyn Beatrice Hall theorized that Voltaire might have expressed his belief in the right to freedom of speech by saying “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

It is an important reminder that speech with which we disagree — or with which we are worried we might one day disagree — must be protected as strenuously as that with which we agree. Fortunately, the Ohio Supreme Court understands that and struck down as unconstitutional a lower court judge’s ruling forbidding a man from making online posts in the future about two family members.

Don’t get us wrong, the man’s online behavior has been disturbing, and one can understand why a judge would be tempted to forbid him from posting “in any manner that expresses, implies, or suggests” that the women were culpable in their husbands’ deaths.

In fact, Justice Michael Donnelly was sympathetic with the attempt to protect the women’s feelings. But protecting our First Amendment freedoms is more important.

“The means chosen to provide that relief–with its virtually unlimited restraint on the content of future postings about appellees–went far beyond anything that the factual record before us can sustain and the First Amendment can tolerate,” Donnelly said.

His choice of words is important. The First Amendment can tolerate far fewer restraints on our speech than most people can. It is precisely BECAUSE it protects speech that makes us uncomfortable, makes us ask questions, or of which we disapprove that it is such an important part of what makes us who we are.

Bravo to the Ohio Supreme Court for getting this one right.


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