Chapter 3: The New House Republican Caucus stands up for “Free Speech”

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Under the Minnesota Constitution, only journalists and some politicians and have a guarantee of “free speech” in the Minnesota Constitution.

Legislators can say what they want on the Floor under the “speech and debate” protection of Article IV, Section 10.

Under the “liberty of the press,” journalists “may freely speak, write, and publish their sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of such right” under Article I, Section 3.

But regular citizens do not have a right of free speech under the Minnesota Constitution. It was left out when the original Constitution was drafted in 1857. It was left out again when it was re-written in 1974.

That is why the New House Republican Caucus (“NHRC”) introduced a bill that would give voters the chance to decide if “free speech” would be added to the Minnesota Constitution.

The bill is House File 676. It was introduced by Reps. Jeremy Munson (Republican-Lake Crystal), Steve Drazkowski (Republican-Mazeppa), Tim Miller (Republican-Prinsburg), and Cal Bahr (Republican-East Bethel).

Out of 197 other Senators and Representatives, they have been joined by only six other House Republicans: Peggy Bennett (Albert Lea), Nolan West (Blaine), John Poston (Lake Shore), Eric Lucero (Dayton), Peggy Scott (Andover), and John Heinrich (Anoka).

Conservatives should ask their Republican legislators why they are not on HF 676!

Never before was your right of free speech been under greater threat in Minnesota than it is today. “Snowflake” students are demanding “safe zones” on college campuses where they are protected from hearing thoughts with which they disagree.

Last month, a Legislative Committee permitted advocates of the no-cell-phone legislation bring big posters to the witness table at a hearing where opponents of bills had been banned for decades from expressing their opinions with posters.

One judge says that protestors can disrupt the Mall of America with Black Lives Matter disruptions. Another judge writes that free speech can be banned on the same private property.

Opponents of school referendums are discouraged, while supporters are encouraged. Speakers with one set of values are welcomed at state colleges, while speakers on the other side face exorbitant “police security” deposits.

Why do we need to include “free speech” in the Minnesota Constitution?

Many types of free speech and writing do not qualify as journalism. Private speech such as diaries r two-person texts are not protected as journalism. Artistic speech such as satirical plays and inflammatory posters are not protected by the liberty of the press.

Community actions such as pickets and sit-ins are not shielded exercises of media freedom. Symbolic speech such burning the flag or draft cards are not promised by free press guarantee.

Fashion speech such as wearing armbands or flags is unprotected by free press guarantees. Commercial speech such as adult entertainment is not an exercise of the free press.

“Free speech is essential to democracy,” said Rep. Drazkowski. “If the Minnesota Constitution includes at least 40 guarantees of liberty from the federal Constitution, then Minnesota should also include the individual’s right to free speech.”

The time is right for a discussion of free speech, which is under attack on many fronts. Many people call it “hate speech” when they disagree with someone. Writers are being censored or banned on many social media platforms. Strong opinions are being blocked at colleges and other public forums because some people are demanding “safe zones.”

“As a leading advocate for transparency in both government and politics, I think we should guarantee the right for unpopular opinions to be heard,” said Rep. Bahr. “Bring opinions out into sunlight. Let people decide to ignore them, reject them, or respond.”

Having a “free speech” guarantee in both the federal and Minnesota Constitutions will spur judges to grant faster action in emergency situations.

If a local school board seeks to ban flyers for a rally against an up-coming referendum, a state court may move faster in granting a decision based on both federal and state guarantees.

“If people disagree with what you think, they try to ban it as hate speech, defamation, or unsuitable for safe spaces, “said Rep. Munson. “We need to show that Minnesotans can say what they think.”

“It figures that the only type of speech protected in the Minnesota Constitution is speech by politicians and journalists,” said Rep. Tim Miller (Republican-Prinsburg). “It is time to protect the rights of every-day citizens.”

You should ask your legislators to sign up for “free speech” as a co-author on HF 676.