The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

Will the Justices Defend Free Speech?

Posted by thelamp on June 18, 2007

A decision in two historical cases, FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life and McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life, is expected to be handed down any day as the U. S. Supreme Court approaches the end of its term, which concludes June 30. The central question in these cases – which have been consolidated for one ruling – is whether organizations like Wisconsin Right to Life can air legitimate grassroots lobbying ads during the blackout periods created by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

In 2004, the Wisconsin Right to Life organization ran a television spot encouraging residents to prevent anticipated filibusters of President George W. Bush’s federal judicial nominees by calling Wisconsin U.S. Senators Russell Feingold and Herb Kohl, both Democrats. Timing of the political advertisements raised eyebrows at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) because Feingold was up for re-election at the time. So the FEC banned the right-to-life group’s ads in the weeks leading up to the November election.

The McCain-Feingold Act, named after the two senators who sponsored the legislation, regulates contributions to federal candidates in an effort to control the influence of special-interest groups on elections. The act is enforced by the FEC. Specifically, the law prohibits unions and corporations from using corporate money to pay for advocacy advertisements targeted at a specific candidate within the designated blackout period 30 days prior to a primary election and 60 days before a general election.

In response to the ad ban, Wisconsin Right to Life sued the FEC, arguing that the ban violated the First Amendment by regulating campaign speech. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Wisconsin Right to Life in December 2006, stating that it is unconstitutional to prohibit the airing of such ads. The Federal Election Commission and Sen. John McCain, along with other members of Congress, appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the cases April 25, 2007.

Here’s an indication of how Americans feel about restrictions on their free speech: A broad coalition of groups representing a wide spectrum of political ideologies filed briefs supporting Wisconsin Right to Life.

The Center for Moral Clarity concurs that the McCain-Feingold law’s “electioneering communication” prohibition should not be applied to grassroots lobbying. Such a limitation stifles citizens’ constitutional right to petition the government. The right to communicate with elected officials should not be suspended during election season.

The nine justices on the nation’s highest court have an opportunity to uphold the First Amendment, which gives citizen organizations a right to participate in self-government by asking other citizens to petition their members of Congress regarding upcoming legislative action. Christian activists are praying that they will do so.

Source:  www.centerformoralclarity.net

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