Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky pretends to be a champion of civil liberties. But as Alex Seitz-Wald noted at Think Progress, Paul went on Sean Hannity’s radio show on May 27 and said the government should “take into account whether or not” people have “been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders.”
He added, “If someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after.” In fact, he said, “They should be deported or put in prison.”
So much for Rand Paul’s devotion to the First Amendment.
The junior Paul doesn’t have a firm grasp of the Constitution or of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution.
In its 1957 decision in Yates vs. the United States, the Court ruled that it was OK for someone even to give a speech promoting the violent overthrow of our government so long as it was “advocacy of an abstract doctrine” and not “advocacy of action to that end,” and “with a specific intent to accomplish such overthrow.”
Then in its unanimous 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Court ruled that you could advocate violence so long as you were not “inciting or producing imminent lawless action.”
So if it’s kosher to make such a speech that promotes the idea of violently overthrowing our government, surely it’s kosher to attend the speech. (In proscribing attendance at such speeches, Paul also leaves no room for members of the media or law enforcement to be even present there.)
Rand Paul has now proven himself to be both a fool and a hypocrite.
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