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Copeland’s rights: They were not violated

Dear readers, we need to review this First Amendment thing again.

Since former Wolfeboro Police Commissioner Bob Copeland admitted calling President Barack Obama the n-word in public (Copeland resigned under pressure this week), some have claimed that demanding his resignation violates his right to free speech. That’s not how the First Amendment works.

“Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” the amendment states. The 14th Amendment then applied that restriction to the states as well. Copeland was an elected government official who said something awful (he called President Obama the n-word), stuck by it, and doubled down on it. The Founding Fathers would hardly have objected to the idea that the people should hold elected officials accountable for what they say.

The First Amendment is not a shield to deflect all barbs tossed in response to one’s words. It protects against government censorship and punishment, not the reproach of the people. Copeland remains free to call people names as often as he wishes. And the people of Wolfeboro remain free to hold their elected officials to higher standards of behavior.

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