The U.S. Supreme Court’s blithe dismissal of the interests of religious minorities in yesterday’s case on regular Christian prayer to begin a New York town council meeting prompts this New York Times sidebar on what some people really mean when they claim advocacy for free speech rights.

Take Justice Antonin Scalia, who once famously wrote in support of flag burning as free expression, as abhorrent as he held it to be. An outlier opinion, it turns out, the article says.

 In cases raising First Amendment claims, a new study found, Justice Scalia voted to uphold the free speech rights of conservative speakers at more than triple the rate of liberal ones. In 161 cases from 1986, when he joined the court, to 2011, he voted in favor of conservative speakers 65 percent of the time and liberal ones 21 percent.

He is not alone. “While liberal justices are over all more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” the study found, “the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences toward the ideological groupings of the speaker.”

Social science calls this kind of thing “in-group bias.”

We see this all the time  in Arkansas.

* Republican politicians like Mike Huckabee and Jason Rapert, to name a couple, construe it as bullying when someone criticizes them for their position on great moral issues of the day — same-sex marriage, for example. Free speech does not include criticism, they seem to believe.


* Newspapers and nonprofits that espouse beliefs objectionable to legislators are denied state business.

* Just this morning, a leader of the Senate, Jonathan Dismang, indicated that the University of Arkansas should have hired a Republican, whatever merits otherwise might have been at play in the choice of applicants, to be the chief UA liaison (lobbyist) with legislators.  Group think.


* And you’ve heard this haven’t you? This is a Christian nation and those who object to its public manifestations in taxpayer-financed settings should, well, shut up.

Sure, liberals have in-group bias, too. I’d like to hear examples in Arkansas, though, where there’s been government required imposition of liberal viewpoints in a publicly financed setting. Note to Rapert: Making public arenas ideology- or religion-free is NOT discrimination. It is viewpoint discrimination when only one viewpoint is allowed to be heard. See the New York town council, as Elena Kagan pointed out (and was shooed away by Samuel Alito). PS — Religion is not science, senator, if you want to drag out the creationism argument.

It is “niggling,” Alito wrote, to worry about  the feelings of non-Christians in a public setting dominated by Christian ritual. I’d like to have Alito and Jason Rapert sit for 60 days through a court or legislative opening ceremony featuring tinkling bells, exotic smells and the incantations of Hindu ritual before getting down to work. Then we’d see what was “niggling.”

It’s a good point to mention Roy Moore, chief of the Alabama Supreme Court, who suggested the 1st Amendment protects only Christians. See video. After it was unearthed, Moore was prompted this week to give interviews to Alabama papers saying he believed religious freedom applies to all faiths. He’s already proven, however, that he believes in favoritism for a certain faith (his), in his government workplace. Remember the Ten Commandments case?