First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.
That was Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy delivering the majority opinion in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, a First Amendment case from 2002 that struck down certain broad stipulations of a child pornography law that prevented the publishing of a book advocating nudism. Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, is a noted supporter of free speech and has repeatedly supported individuals’ rights over attempts by the government to silence freedom of expression.
Tell that to the editors of the Daltonian, the student newspaper of the Dalton School in Manhattan. Kennedy paid the school a visit on Oct. 28, and the Daltonian naturally covered the speech. But Kennedy, who has defended the right to burn the flag, is apparently concerned that a bunch of high schoolers will tarnish his own image.
The associate justice insisted that he review the article before publication, and his staff submitted “a couple of minor tweaks” to his quotes, according to an A1 story in the New York Times. The editors of the Daltonian declined to comment to the Times — maybe because a scary man in dark robes told them not to?
Kennedy should have been more careful in his newspaper editing debut, but then again, ethics aren’t really an issue when you serve for life.