The Corner

Law & the Courts

Reading Constitutional Amendments

In the New York Times, Andrew Marantz argues that we should stop being so absolutist about free speech. He quotes a law professor who

thinks that some aspects of our current First Amendment jurisprudence — blanket protections of hate speech, for example — will also seem ridiculous in retrospect. “It’s simpler to think only about the First Amendment and to ignore, say, the 14th Amendment, which guarantees full citizenship and equal protection to all Americans, including those who are harmed by hate speech,” he said. “It’s simpler, but it’s also wrong.”

If the Fourteenth Amendment scaled back the First Amendment, you’d think it would have said so. It does not seem too much to ask that a constitutional amendment not be read to weaken an older part of the Constitution unless it does so explicitly.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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