The Right To Dis Helen Thomas
Tue, 01/25/2011

Concerning the dispute over retaining the name of Helen Thomas on a lifetime award (“No More Helen Thomas Award?” Jan. 7): Lloyd Weston is absolutely right in contending that the same First Amendment that protects his right to be a Jew and a Zionist also protects Helen Thomas’ right to express her opinions of Jews and Zionists. He is missing an additional point, however: The same First Amendment protects the right of the Society of Professional Journalists to rescind any honor it bestowed upon Thomas, to demonstrate its own opposition to her pernicious beliefs. It protects the Society against being forced to continue honoring her despite objection to those beliefs. Furthermore, only government, not private associations, can violate the First Amendment. Thomas retains her First Amendment rights of expression regardless of the invocation of those same rights by the Society.

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Yes, Stephen. Very well stated indeed. But, I think it is you who is missing the point. I am as much a libertarian as the next guy. Do your thing... as long as it's legal, I'll support your right to do it. Of course, SPJ is not the government. It technically cannot "violate" the First Amendment. But SPJ's commitment to Freedom of Speech is as basic to its existence as separation of meat and dairy is basic to kashrut. By its action in the matter of Helen Thomas, SPJ is saying, "we will support your right to free speech... unless, of course, we don't like what you are saying." That's like the O-U saying that shell fish is traif, but it's ok to eat it in a Chinese restaurant!
Well stated, Stephen! BRAVO!!!

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