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T he First Amendment respects no ideology. Those it defends today it offends tomorrow. The same constitutional guarantee that permits the NAACP to conduct store boycotts also enables the Ku Klux Klan to spread its hateful message. Those who invoke it for themselves but deny it for others disregard a basic tenet of our Madisonian democracy — only the people, and not the government, may decide which ideas are acceptable.

Recently, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 6-5 en banc decision, let it be known that it fears certain ideas; that it does not trust the people with such ideas; and that therefore those who give voice to such ideas must be silenced and punished by overwhelming damage awards. The case, decided May 16, is Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette Inc. v. American Coalition for Life Activists. The ruling is short-sighted, though it has long-range implications.

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