Pillar of Law Institute
Defending Free Speech as a Pillar of a Free Society
There is an urgent need for organized, informed and focused advocacy to protect and revitalize our First Amendment rights. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins." The Pillar of Law Institute takes its inspiration from Franklin's words and from all people who treasure liberty. Therefore, we direct our attention to the following concerns:
The Criminalization of Political Speech
- Prosecutors in Wisconsin launched an unprecedented “John Doe” investigation into the political affairs of conservative organizations in 2013. Their objection? These groups and elected officials met to discuss relevant issues of the day—public bargaining and budget reform--and by meeting to discuss how best to change Wisconsin public policy, prosecutors alleged a criminal violation of Wisconsin election law through “coordination.” If prosecutors are successful with these charges, then these citizens will be fined or put in jail as a result of ordinary discussions with public officeholders. As in Wisconsin, crafty prosecutors and terminally earnest “reformers” in other states will use a new coordination theory to shut down conservative speech nationwide.
- The right of the people to peaceably assemble with the intent to redress matters of public concern should not be inhibited through tactics of intimidation or criminalization of free speech.
The IRS and Government Speech Scandals
- Can it be in a free society that government agents actually delay and impede the progress of certain groups just because they share a commitment to a particular ideology? The founding fathers spoke of government as of "an encroaching nature". In 2013, the IRS targeted specific conservative groups through overzealous scrutiny simply for political reasons. Since then, the IRS has invasively pushed for tighter regulation of charitable organizations.
- Americans should not suffer a public reluctance to criticize government actions due to fear of legal prosecution. Government encroachment through fiscal bullying should, through legal means, be confronted and stopped.
Decreased Privacy and its Destructive Consequences
- The idea of Americans coming together to advocate for causes they believe in is under serious attack. In 2008, ProtectMarriage.com placed the California Marriage Protection Act on the state ballot. Many who donated to “Yes on 8” found their donations electronically disclosed by the government. Following this, private groups provided specific addresses and personal information about these donors. This led to a flood of harassment, picketing, and boycotting as a result. Even in 2014, Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla, stepped down due to protests that he donated $1,000 to help support traditional marriage in the “Yes on 8” campaign.
- A free people should not live in fear of lost personal/political freedom or with the unjust punishment that accompanies such a loss.
Loss of Clear, Fixed and Definite Limits on Government Regarding Free Speech
- From "free speech zones", to the government assault on the pulpit, to the ever-growing hyper-sensibilities regarding so-called "hate speech", Americans are feeling the loss of clear, definite and appropriate limits that were originally placed upon our constitutional republic. There is a kind of steadiness to this pushing away of proper boundaries between citizens and their government. Hence, the need for sustained, intelligent push back.
- If liberty were a tree, then its trunk would be the first amendment; all the other branches of freedom would never come to be without it. Therefore, the protection of the trunk is imperative.
Turning Transparency Away from Free People and Back to Government
- Before individuals, loosely formed associations, or formal organizations speak about political issues, they must wade through complicated regulations that make the exercise of First Amendment freedoms impractical. The Federal Election Commission oversees more than 568 pages of regulations, 1,278 pages of explanations and justifications for those regulations, and 1,771 advisory opinions. Meanwhile, the FEC keeps certain enforcement matters and internal guidelines secret from public viewing, only adding to the risk of investigations and penalties. With such convolution, it cannot be said that political free speech is a reality in America.
- The concept of “transparency” must be turned away from government prying into the private political affairs of its citizens and back on government operations and abuses.
Protecting Donor Privacy and Security
- The harassment and bullying of Americans coming together for causes they believe in is at an unprecedented height. From the IRS claiming the right to extract the names of Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty donors, to mass vandalization of the property of financial supporters of traditional marriage in California, donor privacy and security is under assault. There must be a fundamental shift in how our laws and policies respect political engagement with regard to such things such as donor privacy and issues advocacy.
- The very first words of the constitution are “We the people" and not, "We the government". Tragically, this founding tenet has progressively been reversed. The key to defeating this topsy-turvy, mutant federalism is a vigorous defense of the first amendment.
The Pillar of Law Institute works with American citizens to recapture our lost commitment to open debate, the protection of political privacy, and the commonsense notion of self-governance. It is engaged in defending targets of abusive government investigations, promoting the virtues of free speech and association, and bringing transparency to government operations. There is a pressing need to combat government incursions against free speech. The Pillar of Law Institute addresses this need through pursuing litigation that combats unconstitutional advances and through encouraging a culture of respect for and attachment to our Constitution’s First Amendment.