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Criticize Obama, go to jail?

Attorney General Eric Holder implied that criticizing Obama amounts to "hate speech" and racism.
Attorney General Eric Holder implied that criticizing Obama amounts to "hate speech" and racism.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

An Independence Day parade in Norfolk, Neb. has sparked a renewed controversy involving freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The parade featured a float that depicted a figure that bore the likeness of Barack Obama, who was standing at the door of an outhouse. The words inscribed on the outhouse stated, "Obama Presidential Library."

The Nebraska Democratic Party cried foul, claiming that the display was racist. But the float's creator stated that the figure in the float represented himself, and his depiction of the Obama Presidential Library as an outhouse represented his anger concerning Obama's handling of the VA hospital scandal.

The complaint of the Nebraska Democratic Party was enough to culminate in a visit by an official from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the NAACP. The NAACP in particular was not amused by the display and stated that the float's creator failed to adequately express the intended message.

While no further information has been made available, one can only wonder what will happen if the Feds from the DOJ decide that the display's creator had directed his sentiments directly at Obama. Does he go to jail? Will he be fined? Will he be charged with a crime? What crime?

Is it not allowed in the United States for citizens to openly criticize a president? Is it a crime to use the most captivating means possible to express disgust toward that president, or anyone else in government for that matter?

Traditionally America has cherished and protected free speech and expression, even that which most may consider to be inappropriate and even if those in government are offended. The only exceptions to this long history took place in 1798 and again in 1917.

In the first instance, President John Adams pushed the passage of the Sedition Act in 1798 over the strong objections of his Vice President and political opponent, Thomas Jefferson. The Act made it illegal to oppose the government or to write or publish statements in opposition to any law in America or to vehemently criticize government officials. But when Jefferson became President after Adam's term, he allowed the Sedition Act to expire in 1801.

The second official violation of free speech by government took place in 1917 under the Espionage Act, the brainchild of President Woodrow Wilson and politicians who were part of the Progressive Movement. The Act made it a federal crime to spread false rumors about the military, disrupt its operations, or to stir up mutiny or disrupt recruiting. But in 1918 Congress and the President expanded the 1917 law by passing the Sedition Act of 1918, which made it a felony to criticize the government. It is to be noted that during these years the Wilson Administration and the Congress rounded up and incarcerated citizens of German and Austrian descent, tossing them into detention camps within the United States. This action was a response to American involvement in WW I, in spite of the fact that U.S. citizens of German and Austrian descent supported the U.S. war effort.

Once the populace finally got rid of Wilson and many of the more extremist of the Progressives, the Sedition Act of 1918 was allowed to expire in 1921. By this time the mood of the electorate was shifting, and the nation was headed toward a more freedom=oriented society based on low taxes, small government, and meager federal spending. The power and scope of the federal government was drastically rolled back, particularly under President Calvin Coolidge and his supporters among the Republican controlled Congress.

But under Barack Obama and the Democrats who have controlled at least one chamber of the Congress, both chambers from 2006 to 2010, free speech has stood precariously on the brink of extinction. Recently Attorney General Eric Holder stated that criticizing Barack Obama is racist and implied that there should be legal consequences for doing so, given that such a thing is "hate speech." Further, Obama appointee Elena Kagan, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, has written in the past that the government should exercise more often its power to restrict free speech in the name of "a compelling government interest."

The entirety of the six years of Obama's presidency has cast a chilling pall over freedom of expression. Say the wrong thing, anything, that offends the speech police, and you will be vilified, excoriated, isolated, and ostracized for being a "racist." If the nation continues down this road unabated, it is not a stretch to envision citizens going to jail for criticizing the president. At present, the only legal remedy at our disposal is to load up both houses of Congress with conservative/libertarian public servants who will summarily disarm the power of the Obama/Democrat machine, making Obama truly a powerless lame duck.

(Hat tip to David Codrea).

You may also be interested in the following:

My personal blog, The Liberty Sphere.

My popular series titled, Musings After Midnight.

My ministry site, Martin Christian Ministries.

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