Decision Reaffirms Right to Disagree with Government Policies
In a victory for free speech, a federal judge dismissed charges against Greenpeace for allegedly violating an antique law of the sea, last used 113 years ago. The case was seen by many as an attempt to selectively prosecute Greenpeace for disagreeing with Bush administration policies.
“This is a great day for our Constitution,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way Foundation. “By throwing out a case intended to intimidate dissenters and attack those who disagree with the government’s viewpoint, the rights of all Americans to speak freely have been reaffirmed.”
Unfortunately, the threats to dissent still loom large. The Bush administration and their allies have repeatedly attempted to punish and silence those who disagree with their policies, especially since September 11th. For example, an Air Force officer with nearly a quarter century experience in the military wrote a letter to the editor exercising his free speech rights to criticize the president’s policies on terrorism. He was suspended under the military code of justice. Federal agents appeared at the door of a private art museum in Houston to investigate “Secret Wars,” an exhibit on artistic dissent to covert operations and government secrets. The agents interrogated the owner for an hour. A South Carolina activist was arrested for carrying a sign critical of President Bush at a presidential appearance at an airport. Attorney General John Ashcroft, other GOP leaders, and right-wing pundits have equated dissent with terrorism.
“It is profoundly patriotic to engage in peaceful dissent and protest when you think the government is wrong,” added Neas. “This decision is an important step in maintaining the vitality of our Constitution and the vibrant, free nation in which we live.”