Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Sorry, Newt–Free Speech Means Something in This Country

The often-cynical newt Gingrich, rumored to be considering a run for President, had some shocking and radical things to say about the First Amendment recently, as reported in the conservative Manchester (NH Union-Leader

Gingrich cited last month’s ejection of six Muslim scholars from a plane in Minneapolis for suspicious behavior, which included reports they prayed before the flight and had sat in the same seats as the Sept. 11 hijackers.

“Those six people should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists,” Gingrich said. “And the crew of the U.S. airplane should have been invited to the White House and congratulated for being correct in the protection of citizens.”

First of all, I’ve heard a rather different account of that incident from the horse’s mouth and I totally dismiss the idea that they sat in the same seats as the September 11th hijackers.

Second, their apparent “crime” was to engage in prayer during one of the mandatory five times per day that Islam requires, and to do so in the airport lounge rather than at a mosque.

The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to protect dissent. If you only protect the speech you agree with, Newt, you may as well not have the First Amendment. This is a fundamental building block of the American democracy, it’s what has made us special in the world of nations and imitated by many emerging democracies over the last two centuries.

Time for a little lesson from Pastor Martin Niemoller, who wrote the famous poem that begins

They came first for the Communists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

(Full poem, with variations and commentary, at Wikipedia)


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