This article raises a very good question: “Does the First Amendment protect global warming deniers?”
The answer is, unequivocally and resoundingly “YES.”
No federal, state, county, or local entity, nor any law enforcement or public business may restrict people’s expression concerning the pros and/or cons of various viewpoints on global warming, climate change, denying, etc. We live in the United States of America, which holds both the freedom of speech and the press in the highest regard. This is NOT Nazi Germany, which repressed the vast majority of free speech and severely punished violators.
Our First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
First, once they are properly ratified, all amendments are fully a part of the Constitution: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution.” (Article V).
Second, although 1A specifically limits Congress from passing any such law, the Supreme Court has repeatedly expanded that through the “the supreme Law of the Land” clause (Article VI) to mean the United States Constitution supersedes all federal, state, county, and local (municipality) law. Thus, no action by any executive, legislative, judicial branch, or by law enforcement or member of the public can legal violate any provision of the Constitution, including “the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
Third, countless case law refers to “freedom of speech” as applying to oral utterances, regardless of source, whereas “the press” refers to the written word, regardless of form (print, offset type, electronic, billboard, etc.). Thus, my blog, as was Benjamin Franklin’s backyard printing press, is every bit as much “the press” as is the New York times. Although Nancy Pelosi would like you to believe otherwise, well, what can I say? She’s the last person I would ever consult on matters Constitutional.
Fourth, countless case law willfully ignores the content of free speech when determining whether or not it’s “allowable” under Constitutional law. Thus, t-shirts supporting the murderous revolutionary Che Guevara, are every bit as protected when worn by a teenager cruising the mall as is a t-shirt sporting a happy face.
Fifth, the U.S. Supreme Court has continuously upheld very strict scrutiny for the exceedingly few restrictions on freedom of speech. Specifically, the only exceptions involve the following:
1. Content: Cannot be based upon content, i.e. any restrictions must remain content-neutral, even if the content is highly objectionable. This is the reason the Westboro Baptists can continue to protest military funerals despite the fact that 99% of society finds their behavior utterly reprehensible. Thus, no municipality can allow public protests supporting one side of an issue while denying those who are protesting the opposite side of the issue.
2. Time, place, and manner. Municipalities can place limited restrictions on time, place, and manner. For example, driving at 3 am (time) through neighborhoods (place) while blaring one’s point of view over loudspeakers (manner) violate all three. Such restrictions, however, must remain content-neutral. Thus, you cannot ban one group of protesters under any particular combination of time/place/manner while allowing another. The courts have also observed “similitude,” such that one time/place/manner is considered for all practical purposes as being substantially equivalent to another even details differ. Thus, a municipality cannot ban protests in one neighborhood while allowing them in another.
3. Prior restraint: “If the government tries to restrain speech before it is spoken, as opposed to punishing it afterwards, it must be able to show that punishment after the fact is not a sufficient remedy, and show that allowing the speech would “surely result in direct, immediate, and irreparable damage to our Nation and its people” (New York Times Co. v. United States). U.S. courts have not permitted most prior restraints since the case of Near v. Minnesota in 1931.
Bottom Line: Any and all claims related to “global warming” and “climate change” must stand on their own merits. The freedom to question the validity of ANY public opinion or policy directly relates to the ability of the people of our nation helping to keep our nation free by limiting the power and authority of all entities, most notably various institutions, including local, county, state, and federal governments, from infringing on our freedom of speech and of the press.