The History of Protected, Anonymous Speech

In the dark money debate here in Montana, some legislators are saying, “We want to know who their donors are.” 

Well, Gregg Smith, who founded the former Electric City Weblog, pointed me to an interesting piece of history in paragraph 4 of this Wall Street Journal column.  It not only ties into the so-called “dark money” debate, but also ties into the IRS political targeting scandal.  

Here’s an excerpt of Peggy Noonan’s piece:  

The most compelling evidence of that is what happened to the National Organization for Marriage. Its chairman, John Eastman, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, and the tale he told was different from the now-familiar stories of harassment and abuse.

In March 2012, the organization, which argues the case for traditional marriage, found out its confidential tax information had been obtained by the Human Rights Campaign, one of its primary opponents in the marriage debate. The HRC put the leaked information on its website—including the names of NOM donors. The NOM not only has the legal right to keep its donors’ names private, it has to, because when contributors’ names have been revealed in the past they have been harassed, boycotted and threatened. This is a free speech right, one the Supreme Court upheld in 1958 after the state of Alabama tried to compel the NAACP to surrender its membership list.

What about the other major debate which has tied up most of 2013: gun rights.   

Well, here’s what a UCLA professor has to say about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Huffington Post (liberal news, opinion website) column.  It’s a piece of history that is also echoed in the opening pages of Glenn Beck’s new book “Control:” 

Most people think King would be the last person to own a gun. Yet in the mid-1950s, as the civil rights movement heated up, King kept firearms for self-protection. In fact, he even applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

A recipient of constant death threats, King had armed supporters take turns guarding his home and family. He had good reason to fear that the Klan in Alabama was targeting him for assassination.

As I found researching my new book, Gunfight, in 1956, after King’s house was bombed, King applied for a concealed carry permit in Alabama. The local police had discretion to determine who was a suitable person to carry firearms. King, a clergyman whose life was threatened daily, surely met the requirements of the law, but he was rejected nevertheless. At the time, the police used any wiggle room in the law to discriminate against African Americans.

The author then tried to argue that Dr. King moved away from guns and closer towards nonviolence later in life.  Maybe the author needs to be reminded that simply carrying a firearm for self defense is not the same as advocating violent protest.

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