Author`s name David R. Hoffman

Tyranny disguised as patriotism

Regular readers of Pravda.Ru may recall how I have frequently argued that, especially when it comes to ruling on issues of great social significance, the United States Supreme Court has been wrong more often than it has been right. I say this not as a matter of personal opinion, but as a fact of history and social progress, which this Court has, on more than one occasion, worked zealously to thwart.

However, one of the Court's more sagacious rulings came in the case of West Virginia vs. Barnette, which dealt with a state law requiring public school students to "salute” the flag or face punishment if they refused.

Decided in 1943, the Court undoubtedly was familiar with images of children in Nazi Germany being required to salute Hitler, and, in several enlightened sentences, noted:

"Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing but self-interest. Love of country must spring from willing hearts and minds, inspired by a fair administration of wise laws by the people's elected representatives within the bounds of express constitutional prohibitions. These laws must, to be consistent with the First Amendment, permit the widest tolerance of conflicting viewpoints consistent with a society of free men.”

The Supreme Court further elaborated on the sentiments of Barnette in 1977 when, in the case of Wooley vs. Maynard, it ruled that freedom of speech also included freedom from speech; thus, the government could not force people to display on state-issued license plates messages they disagreed with.

Apparently, lawmakers in some states, still pruriently wallowing in the excrement of Trumpian fascism, and hypocritically denigrating the meaning of patriotism for self-serving political gain, did not get the memo, and instead are attempting to legally require that the national anthem be played at the beginning of sporting events.

This is specious for two reasons.

The first is fundamental contract law. While I am not privy to the wording of the actual contracts, these "anthem” requirements, at least when it comes to professional sports teams and the states they reside in, appear to represent a material alteration of contractual terms that were neither negotiated nor bargained for.

But even if this is not the case, these requirements ignore the fact that state governments also profit economically from the presence of sports teams, so to pretend that the teams are the only beneficiaries of these contracts simply is not true.

In fact, while as a practical and political matter it would never happen, perhaps the most fitting response to these dictatorial demands would simply be for these teams to play in or move to less draconian states.

The second reason is that these anthem requirements violate two fundamental clauses of the United States Constitution: The Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

And before anyone argues that professional sports teams are not "people,” and thus not protected by these clauses, it must be remembered that, in a ruling Republicans heavily favored, the Supreme Court stated, in Citizens United vs. FEC (2010), that corporations are "people” for First Amendment purposes.

The Due Process Clause states that governments cannot deny any person or entity their fundamental rights without due process of law. One such fundamental right is Freedom of Speech, and, as the cases cited above demonstrate, it includes not only freedom to speak, but also freedom from government-mandated compulsory speech.

The Equal Protection Clause states that governments cannot unfairly classify people or entities and then subject them to different laws. As noted above, these anthem requirements only apply to sports teams. They do not require churches, construction companies, restaurants, movie theaters, or a myriad of other businesses to play the national anthem upon demand.

Granted, the argument can be raised that these entities have not traditionally played the anthem prior to events like sports teams have. But they could have chosen to if they wanted.

The opposite can also be said of sports teams. Just because they have traditionally played the anthem does not negate their right to cease playing it if they desire to.

The greatest hypocrisy of these demagogic anthem thumpers is self-evident: Pretending to support freedom by oppressively denying it.

"Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing but self-interest.” A powerful message indeed. America will be less free if it also becomes a forgotten one.

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