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Bay Area more restrictive than Manteca in public forum free speech

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POSTED February 6, 2013 8:48 p.m.

Freedom of speech is alive and well in Manteca. The same goes for many San Joaquin Valley communities.

The same cannot be said of the Bay Area, the cradle of the modern free speech movement.

Manteca’s elected leaders Tuesday rejected the notion of politically correct speech in the form of a Bay Area template policy regarding public transit advertising. Bay Area transit agencies have a blanket prohibition against ads that involve religion in any form as well as politics. Such a policy follows a federal bureaucratic formula designed to snuff out public debate in a bid not to offend anyone.

The policy still allows ads that offend. If you believe Russ Limbaugh is the most disgusting radio personality ever you might be offended to see an ad promoting his show on a bus stop shelter. And if you are a staunch opponent of abortion a Planned Parenthood advertisement may not sit too well with you.

Lumping religion and politics with pornography is more than just disconcerting. The Supreme Court has essentially given local jurisdictions latitude to regulate pornography, since it can be deemed inappropriate for a wide array of reasons. Putting religious and political advertising under the same umbrella that’s been called “community standards” should make any advocate of free speech cringe.

Because some may not like a particular religion and its viewpoints - whether it is Christian, Muslim or any other - the Bay Area agencies do not want to see religion advertising grace their buses and transit facilities. The same goes for politics.

Manteca’s vote was a stand for free speech. It reaffirmed that the community standard for religion and politics should be all encompassing.

There is room at the proverbial table for all religions and all types of political views.

Manteca will not deny you a soapbox via a bus shelter ad - as long as you pay for it - out of fear that someone may not like it or agree with it.

Free speech is the cornerstone of all of our rights. You can’t enjoy any of the other freedoms the Constitution confers unless you have the freedom of speech. That is true whether you are fighting against the government forcefully taking your property, debating gun ownership rights, or practicing the religion of your choice.

Somewhere along the journey those who proclaim to be conservatives and liberals have become disconnected with the basic tenets of their political philosophies. Conservatives at one time earnestly held individual rights - and that would include an entire repertoire of things from what consenting adults can do behind closed doors to whatever you chose to do to your body - as sacred. They were tempered by the fact no rights can be absolute since we live in a society and not as loners on our own island. Liberals were once champions for all and not simply those deemed to be politically correct.

The disconnect has been caused by the very vehicle both conservatives and liberals, in their modern-day form of Republicans and Democrats, have relied on to spread their philosophy - state and federal governments.

It is little wonder that government - more specifically non-elected bureaucrats - have gained more and more power over our lives.

It is how we now have a government that was born from debate in public forums pushing policies that essentially ban using public vessels such as bus shelters where ads are placed to debate religion and politics.

It may seem like the Manteca City Council simply stood up for religion.

But in reality they stood tall for the freedom of speech.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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