'Free Speech' Doesn't Mean 'Trespass'

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Is
there an organization more un-American than the American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU)?

The
organization's name contains all the right words. But no matter
what its title, the ACLU is the most anti-private property organization
in America (other than the judicial branch of the federal government,
of course).

The
ACLU constantly files lawsuits against property owners who attempt
to protect their property rights. Many of these lawsuits are supposedly
to protect free speech rights.

But
can there be a right to freedom of speech unless that right is firmly
based on property rights? Economist Murray Rothbard asked and answered
that question simply and succinctly in his book Power and Market.
"Where does a man have this right [free speech]? He certainly
does not have it on property on which he is trespassing. In short,
he has this right only either on his own property or on the property
of someone who has agreed, as a gift or in rental contract, to allow
him on the premises."

The
ACLU has been especially busy in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City in
recent years, filing suit against property owners who have rightfully
attempted to control what can be said, or what written information
can be handed out, on their properties.

This
summer Salt Lake City closed a deal with The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) wherein the church now controls an easement
on a downtown Salt Lake pedestrian block adjacent to the LDS temple.
In April 1999 the church paid the city $8.1 million for one block
of Main Street. As part of the sale agreement the church agreed
to the city's demand for public access to the block, but asked that
"the church be allowed to restrict smoking, sunbathing, bicycling,
u2018obscene' or u2018vulgar' speech, dress or conduct on the plaza."
The ACLU filed suit back in 1999, claiming that the restrictions
were unconstitutional. A federal appeals court judge agreed with
them.

Now
the ACLU has filed suit again, claiming that the city showed a preference
for one religion over another when it sold the easement (granting
public access) to the church. What more does the church have to
do? It spent over eight million dollars buying the property. It
purchased the easement for $388,000 plus two acres of land and the
church can't dictate what sorts of behavior are allowed on their
property?

The
Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas owns the sidewalk
fronting its property on Las Vegas Boulevard. In March 1999 when
1,300 Culinary Union members clogged the sidewalk, protesting owner
Sheldon Adelson's planned opening as a non-union resort, the hotel
demanded that police arrest the picketers for trespassing. But then-Clark
County District Attorney Stewart Bell instructed police to refuse.
The hotel then sued Clark County and the Las Vegas Metropolitan
Police Department, and the ACLU of Nevada intervened in the case
on behalf of the union.

The
Venetian subsequently lost its case in District Court and again
on appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Adelson invests
$1.5 billion and though he clearly owns the sidewalk at the front
of his property, he can't kick protestors and smut peddlers off
of it?

This
summer the City of Las Vegas lost a court battle over whether the
city and the Freemont Street Experience could bar commercial solicitors
from the Freemont Street Experience property in downtown Las Vegas.
The ACLU of Nevada sued the city and the Freemont Street Experience
back in 1997. The Freemont Street Experience, which is funded by
the downtown casino property owners, invested $70 million to build
the canopied pedestrian mall. But, the group is not allowed to keep
unwanted solicitors off of their property?

Thomas
Jefferson wrote; "The right to procure property and to use
it for one's own enjoyment is essential to the freedom of every
person, and our other rights would mean little without these rights
of property ownership."

Justice
Hugo Black, a staunch free speech advocate, believed that freedom
of speech was grounded in private property rights. "We have
a system of property," Black wrote, "which means that
a man does not have a right to do anything he wants anywhere he
wants to do it."

Property
rights provide the foundation for all other rights. There can be
no freedom of speech without property rights. If organizations like
the ACLU continue to run amok, supported by the federal judiciary,
our rights will be lost forever.

August
27, 2003

Doug
French [send him mail]
executive vice president of a Southern Nevada bank. This first appeared
in the emailed newsletter of the Nevada Policy Research Institute.


        
        

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