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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I'm Offended And I Will Sue You

John Stossel discusses the new California case that allows workers to sue for sexual harassment when they are not even participants in the affair or act.

For us 1st Amendment lovers, this conversation between Stossel and Olivet Jones, a consultant who conducted a workplace seminar on sexual harassment that ABC News videotaped, is scary. Writes Stossel:

"So the person who hears it gets to determine if it's offensive?" I asked. "Even if your intention is good?"

"It doesn't matter, John. If I shoot you dead," she asked, "do you care that I didn't mean to?"

Shooting equals speaking? There's a difference between bullets and words.

"No," Jones says. "They have the same power."

In one way, she is right. Who cares whether my killer killed me because I am Jewish, a blogger or an attorney (OK that may be justification). That is why I am against hate crimes. Who cares what my killer's intent was.

However, in America, the offensiveness of words should be irrelevant. I recognize that the 1st Amendment was intended to apply solely to political speech. However, as a follower of Supreme Court precedent, the right has been expanded to encompass more speech. And conduct.

The proponents of sexual harassment cases are inconsistent since they are likely defenders of public acts that are offensive. Yet, when they get offended, it is an actionable tort.


At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first amendment was soley to apply to political speech? State action limiting speech of any sort, save political, is ok in your view? The Founders' view?

What about state regulation of commercial speech (i.e. advertising for beer and alcohol and, yes, tobacco products).

Man, I hope you're wrong.

Please rethink or refer me to the relevant Federalist Paper.

At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The next step in California will allow cause of action by spouse or significant other, with whom one cohabits, when one works from home and utters such "offensive" statements to that person during business hours. Of course, the definition of business hours will have to be expanded. A boon to both employment attorneys and divorce attorneys.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger neal phenes said...

Oure Bill of Rights was adopted from the English version that guaranteed some individual rights of petition, assembly and speech. But do not ignore the severe penalties for slander and libel,. Do not ignore the very limited right from prepublication censorship rather than the open unfettered right to speak without repercussions that we have today.

Blackstone felt that criminal libels could not even avail themselves of the truth defense because "if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequences."

Chief Justice Holt said: "if people should not be called to account for possessing the people with an ill opinion of the government, no government shall subsist."

No public official in the 1780's voiced an understanding of the freedom of the press and speech that differed from Holt or Blackstone (who held similar positions of the freedoms).

We are applying modern standards that have strayed from the limited rights that led John Adams to enforce a Sedition Act, for instance.

Your second question is preposterous given what I publish daily.

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