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Thoughts on Freedom of Speech, Part 2

Posted by Chance on June 19, 2006

This post has evolved into one concerning freedom of speech, to that of speech and of lifestyle.

There is an interesting post at astrocoz.blogspot.com, which Josh directed me to, and a discussion in which both Josh and I participated. The main focus was the Dixie Chicks issue. She also said something else interesting though

We don’t have freedom of speech anymore…that is unless all parties who are audience to it agree with it. Freedom of speech exists as a right in a document written centuries ago…however, it does not exist in practice. For instance, there are things I just don’t write here…because if some superior from my company were to read this blog and see what I wrote, I could get fired for my views. I could lose my job over my right for freedom of speech. I can write whatever I want, according to the government, but Corporatism prevents me from writing some things that I would really like to say for fear of being canned or demoted. They wouldn’t outright say I was fired or demoted for my views and opinions, but they would find some other problem with my blog and use that as an excuse…because if they said they were doing that because of an opinion I wrote on, I could probably sue…but then again, under contract, I probably waived my freedom of speech and my right to sue like a lot of people do inadvertently.

Our discussion was mainly on freedom of speech as a whole, but I wanted to touch more on the issue of her being fired for her views. These were my comments concerning that issue.

I think the whole issue of whether or not you can be fired or not hired for activities outside of the workplace is a very important one, and one I see becoming bigger as time goes on. Should a company base employment decisions on issues that are not directly related to the workplace? I could see some instances, where a church fires their pastor for doing things contrary to the teachings of the church, even if it is in “private”. However, other issues are not so clear, such as a health club firing employees for doing non-healthy things in their pastimes. Then, there are the more insane examples, like the ones you provided.

If I had to make a choice right now, I would probably go more towards the businesses having more flexibility in hiring and firing (provided that the firing was done according to the contract terms), because I think if the company goes over the edge, people will be less likely to do business with the company. However, I can understand how someone can go the other way too. And I hate to see companies discriminate based on activities that have nothing to do with work.

Anyway, I think this issue is a very interesting and important one, and just wanted to discuss it on my blog. It seems like this issue and similar ones are not quite in the limelight, but will be soon. The ACLU has already taken up a lawsuit in a case similar to the one I mentioned in the quote above, in which people were fired from a health club for smoking. I predict whether or not people can be fired for doing things in their private lives, non-related to their job, will be a hot issue.

This is an issue of non-governmental entities providing rules for our lives. Another example is that of covenants for housing subdivisions, in which people are limited to what they can do to their house and property. Could these covenants become more invasive, such as requiring someone not smoke (property values could be tied to this), or not putting up certain kinds of Christmas decorations? What if a housing covenant decides that putting up Christian Christmas decorations is inappropriate for the neighborhood?

My last example is that of insurance companies. Health insurance companies can charge higher premiums on those who smoke or may generally have less healthy lifestyles. Home insurance can charge extra if someone has a certain type of pet, much to the chagrin of dog owners and animal rights activists.

For the insurance issue, I fully support the companies. After all, they make money by playing the odds. They assess the risk that a claim will have to be filed, and charge a premium accordingly. If someone does something that puts themselves or their property at risk, it makes sense they will have to pay more.

The hiring issue is not so clear. As I said in my quoted comments, for right now I support the right of businesses to hire who they want. Yes, there are some issues that are ridiculous, and I don’t think Astrocoz should be fired for what she posts on her blogs. But other issues are more clear, when the employee is doing something that goes against the mission of the organization or company. The thing is, I don’t think government has the ability to make these subjective judgments.

The important thing to mention here is that things should be done according to the agreement between the employee and employer. If there was nothing in the contract or handbook concerning improper blog posts, the employee would have a case for wrongful termination. At least to my very, very limited understanding of workplace law.

The housing covenant issue can be a very scary one though. Yes, moving into a region is optional, but what if you live in a city where everyone hates religious Christmas (or any religious holiday for that matter) displays? State freedom of religion does no good if no neighborhood allows it. However, I think this is an issue that the free market can regulate. Housing covenants that are invasive or overly restrictive would prevent customers from coming to that subdivision. Furthermore, opportunistic building companies would have much more lenient housing covenants, thereby exploiting the marketplace by appealing to those who love Christmas lights. Finally, a building company with anti-religious housing covenants would really get bad press, whether they be in the religious south, or the more religiously-private (that’s a politically correct term, right?) New England.

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2 Responses to “Thoughts on Freedom of Speech, Part 2”

  1. The Prophet said

    Great Post…

    You’ve left me speechless, and my mind reeling with thoughts… which is rarely done. Good Job.

  2. astrocoz said

    Wow…Christmas lights being regulated by the Private Industry…never heard about that one, but definitely something that is totally invasive. Great post.

    Firing someone for smoking is sooo bogus, because smoking is an addiction, its not like they can really help themselves…especially if they have tried to quit and couldn’t do it.

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