Issue 63, Fall 1996

Some of the most extreme planks of this election year’s Republican Party Platform would leave the First Amendment in ruins. These planks have attracted surprisingly little public attention. Most reflect the strong influence of religious extremists. Some examples:

– Passage of so-called "parental rights amendments" to state constitutions. These amendments — not supported by most parents — would paralyze the schools and turn the First Amendment on its head. Parents could sue schools, and even individual teachers, over the use of any books or curricula they do not like (Censorship News 6l). These deceptive amendments and similar federal legislation are now at the top of the Religious Right’s wish list, but are opposed by U.S. district attorneys and a wide range of religious, educational and social organizations.

– Federal legislation to restrict the jurisdiction of federal courts and a call to require reconfirmation of federal judges. These proposals would reverse a basic principle, the separation of powers, and threaten the First Amendment by undermining the independence of the judiciary.

– Support for restrictions of First Amendment rights of nonprofit organizations receiving federal grants. This gag rule against advocacy is pushed by the Christian Coalition.

– An amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing elected officials to restrict First Amendment rights in order to protect the flag from "desecration."

– Defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.