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Freedom of Speech is not Freedom from Consequences

James Damore is the latest American to learn that the First Amendment only stops the government - and not your employer - from restricting your speech. He is the Google engineer who sent an anti-diversity rant via his employer’s internal email list.

He was fired.

But doesn’t the First Amendment guarantee freedom of speech?

The concept of free speech is so enmeshed with our national identity and values, that most people do not realize the First Amendment only prevents the government from restricting free speech:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Damore joins a distinguished list of public figures who have suffered economically for expressing their points of view.

Country music icon Hank Williams Jr. performed the musical intro to Monday night football for 20 years. ESPN pulled the song after Williams compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler. He is returning this fall after a 6-year hiatus.

The Dixie Chicks’ music was pulled by many country music stations after Natalie Maines criticized the actions of then-President George W. Bush while she was on tour in London.

Gilbert Gottfried was fired as the voice of the AFLAC duck after AFLAC considered his Japanese Tsunami jokes tasteless and offensive.

Many public employees (those who work for the government) have very few free speech rights to criticize their employers. Private employees can be fired for voicing their political views or opinions. An Alabama woman was fired for having a John Kerry bumper sticker on her car. A Delta flight attendant was fired for blogging and posing in racy pictures in her uniform.

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