Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Where are my free speech rights? I think I left them around here somewhere.

An old joke:

This guy is walking around and around a lamp post at night. This cop passes by and demands an explanation. "I lost my keys”, slurs the guy.

Cop: "Oh, so you lost them under the lamp post?"
Guy: "Naw, lost 'em two blocks down there. Under my car."
Cop (angrilly): "So why look for them under the lamp post?"
Guy: "Cause the light's so much better here!"

Unfortunately, the light’s not that good anymore in private planned urban communities in New Jersey like Twin Rivers. You’ll have to look elsewhere for your free speech rights –---maybe where the light is better.

Here in New Jersey, our Supreme Court says it’s OK to sign away your free speech rights if you want to live in a private community. When someone buys in to Twin Rivers, they sign an agreement that signs away a portion of their free speech rights. And the court said, in this case, that that is okay as long as the restrictions are not “unreasonable”. One may think that the act of signing away your constitutional rights in and of itself is an "unreasonable" requirement.

“This is America! How can they sign away their constitutional rights so easily?” you may inquire. I think as others do, that you need to be very careful about which rights you sign away. Some day you may discover that you need it bad: “Aha! Where is my freedom of speech? I think I put it here someplace….”

The trend in corporate America is to develop more and more large privatized areas –where the First Amendment must be given up at the door. Restrictions to freedom of speech in shopping malls in NJ were first challenged some years ago. Now the arena it's private condo communities. This is not a trend that bodes well for civil liberties. What could be next?

On the side of COMMITTEE FOR A BETTER TWIN RIVERS was the A-Team --- Prof. Frank Askin and the ACLU [Ed Barocas, the Legal Director of the ACLU explains why he thinks his team scored a ‘victory, anyway].

On the other side was the TWIN RIVERS HOMEOWNERS’ ASSOCIATION and their great attorney, ----my good friend, Barry Goodman. Barry and his team are the key reasons for the Twin Rivers 7-0 victory. Go ahead, Barry –do your victory lap. You deserve it.

The Twin Rivers-type communities of America may be wonderfully looking private neighborhoods with perfectly landscaped sloping lawns. The homes have doors and window fixtures all the same contractually-agreed-to-color. But, it is a slippery slope off of those lawns in to a privatized/corporatized America where people are willing to give up constitutional rights to achieve a little security ---and aesthetic beauty.

Maybe the folks who’ve bought into the private planned urban communities don’t even know they have waived their free speech rights to begin with. I don’t know.

But, remember what Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety [and in this case, some aesthetic beauty] , deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Wonder if Ben would have moved in to Twin Rivers?


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