Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Americans are so enamoured of equality they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.”     Alexis de Tocqueville

May 14, 2009

Carrie Prejean Is Wrong About Her Rights

by Doug Mataconis

During the press conference the other day where Donald Trump announced that Carrie Prejean would not lose her title as Miss California, the new heroine of social conservatives everywhere had this to say:

“I exercised my freedom of speech and I was punished for doing so,” an emotional Prejean said at a news conference. “This should not happen in America. It undermines the constitutional rights for which my grandfather fought for (in World War Two).

As Chris Moody notes, however, Prejean completely misunderstands, or deliberately mis-states, the nature of the rights that her grandfather fought for:

Sorry, Carrie, no constitutional rights were undermined here. To be sure, the government was not involved in any way. You were not censored by a state or by the strong arm of any coercive power. You were ridiculed and attacked by a free people who, yes, were brutal to your character, your religion and your family. But again, no rights were violated.

You agreed to a contract, you were honest, and your views were criticized. You took a national stand on religious principles, and someone legally pointed out that you’re not perfect by bringing up your past. They called you a hypocrite, even though you’re just human. They tried to discredit you, and showed the world a few pictures you might not have wanted anyone to see.

But if your constitutional rights really were undermined, you never would have been able to take those pictures in the first place. Your career as a model would be a crime against the state; your participation in a beauty pageant would have been outlawed; and you would have been thrown in prison for your ideas about gay marriage.

But none of that happened. So please don’t make this about a problem of rights infringement. You fought a voluntary battle for your beliefs and this is the outcome.

Here’s what the First Amendment actually says:

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.

See ? There’s nothing in there that says that Prejean, or anyone else, can speak out on an issue of public concern but that people who disagree with her can’t criticize her, or use evidence from her past to point out what some might consider a hypocritical appeal to her supposed Christianity.

Carrie Prejean has the right to speak out without fear of punishment from the state, that’s exactly what happened, and that’s the only right she was entitled to.

So, let’s stop talking about this now, okay ?

O/P: Below The Beltway

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22 Comments

  1. I see the point of your argument on the surface; but the uproar from those that “dislike” her comments goes beyond criticism. As occurs in other arenas when one *disagrees* with “them,” you are targeted for character assassination and more. The effort to remove her as Miss California was supposedly based on previous pictures, but it is also part of the standard operating procedure… the next step of the character assassination.

    Furthermore, “hate crime” legislation is partly about criminalizing such comments (in time). Other countries already “protect” people of different “sexual orientations” from open criticism by categorizing such comments as “hate propaganda.” The issue and uproar is just the first part an incremental process. Such comments by Carrie *will* become illegal in time if we do not “talk” about it. It is not about real hatred, but what “they” *define* as “hatred.” Rest assured that what “they” define as hatred will also trample on your own yard at some point in time. The conflict in the public arena over is thus much bigger, and more important, than just the comments of Miss California, Carrie Prejean.

    Comment by Peter — May 14, 2009 @ 6:47 am
  2. Doug Mataconis Is Wrong About His Interpretation

    Carrie didn’t say that her rights were violated. Rather, she said that the rights that her grandfather fought for were undermined. And they were undermined (not violated), because Carrie suffered not mere criticism but also vicious and calculated attacks against her character and against her career. These attacks came as a direct consequence of her speech regarding marriage. They had not surfaced before, and they would never have surfaced if she had answered as the homosexual community wanted.

    Carrie nearly lost her title because of her views on marriage. Had she lost her title, her right to free speech would have been violated because the forfeiture of her title would have come as a direct result of her speech at the Miss America Pageant and later at other venues.

    Comment by Jack — May 14, 2009 @ 6:50 am
  3. Jack,

    She said the following at Trump’s press conference:

    “I exercised my freedom of speech and I was punished for doing so,” an emotional Prejean said at a news conference. “This should not happen in America. It undermines the constitutional rights for which my grandfather fought for (in World War Two).

    That is false.

    The First Amendment protects her from government restricts on her speech only, it doesn’t protect her from being criticized for others for the things that she says. The actions of a private organization do nothing to undermine her First Amendment rights.

    You also said:

    Carrie nearly lost her title because of her views on marriage. Had she lost her title, her right to free speech would have been violated because the forfeiture of her title would have come as a direct result of her speech at the Miss America Pageant and later at other venues.

    Well, technically, she nearly lost her title because she lied to pageant officials about the fact that she had posed for nude and semi-nude photos in the past. This was apparently a clear violation of her contract with the Miss USA pageant that Trump choose not to fire her for, which is his choice.

    Also, I suggest you go back and read the text of the First Amendment. It speaks only of government restrictions on speech. If Miss USA, Inc. (or whatever it’s called) had decided to strip her of her title because of what she said, the First Amendment would have had absolutely nothing to say about it.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2009 @ 7:13 am
  4. Had she lost her title, her right to free speech would have been violated because the forfeiture of her title would have come as a direct result of her speech at the Miss America Pageant and later at other venues.

    This is completely false. Carrie Prejean can say whatever she wants without fear of being imprisoned or otherwise punished by the government. That’s what the first amendment is about. How Donald Trump wants to run his pageant is NOT a first amendment issue.

    Your final statement is exactly why Doug wrote this post. Carrie Prejean is free to speak without any state interference. That does not mean that she is free from private criticism or consequence — even if that consequence means an employer refusing to employ her or a private pageant withholding their crown — for her speech.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — May 14, 2009 @ 7:18 am
  5. The pageant is a private enterprise that has set certain rules for its applicants. The photo issue may have been an attempt by her opponents to get her de-throned, but they did so using photos she willingly posed for and then failed to disclose. All her opponents were doing in this case was calling attention to a possible pageant rules infraction. Yes, their motive was probably driven by her comments, but she left herself open to such a thing by her own actions of posing for and then failing to disclose the existence of the photos in possible violation of pageant rules. None of that has anything to do with the First Amendment and the pageant can set and enforce whatever rules it wants.

    Comment by SC — May 14, 2009 @ 7:24 am
  6. Mr. Mataconis got it right. The Constitution only applies to interference with our freedom of speech from the government. Ms. Prejean integrity might have been impugned, but its libel or slander only if it is untrue.

    Ms. Prejean apparently believes she was punished because of the way she answered the question. Its a beauty contest – you’re supposed to smile, say something about world peace, and keep smiling if you want to win. The winner was in first place in the other two legs of the competition (evening gown and swimsuit), and disregarding the content, Ms. Prejean’s answer to her interview question wasn’t exactly articulate. So the whole precept that she was “punished” for stating her mind is disingenuous – she simply lost the game, and is trying to blame it on the ref’s.

    Now the Right has taken up her cause, and she has willingly joined The National Organization for Marriage in promoting “opposite” marriage (I guess we should credit her for creating that bit of lexicon). Even if The Donald had taken away her Miss California title (for any of several reasons that don’t include her response to the question), her free speech rights would not have been violated.

    If anything, her response and subsequent publicity has given her a soapbox far greater than a Miss USA title. Honestly, how many people know who the actual winner is? And even if you do, do you really care what her views on same sex marriage are?

    Comment by Jon — May 14, 2009 @ 7:58 am
  7. I don’t know why carrie is stepping into double standards regarding this issue. At her church she stated that she understood she was being mocked for her beliefs, by the verbal assaults and releasing of her pictures she was being persecuted. Although not in a literal violent way but her conduct for being a Christian was being attacked.

    I agree w/carrie that she was naive and stated that she regretted being in that situation, and carrie is not the first and last person to do this as many girls would have been in her shoes. Its strange that now she starts to defend herself by bringing in free speech and her rights. But where was carrie prejean who clearly accepted the fact that her beliefs will be mocked and attacked as every Christian knows that, not because of any consitutional amendments says so but the Bible says that and worse than her missionaries are being killed for their faith in countries that strongly opposes freedom of religion.

    Comment by Cin — May 14, 2009 @ 8:21 am
  8. If Leftwing blondes like the Dixie Chicks or Susan Sarandan can scream and holler about their 1A rights being threatened, and cry over “censorship” when they got hammered for their opinions they decided to express about the war, then I figure a rightwing blonde is no less entitled to do the same.

    I guess one difference might be that the Miss Calif. was asked a question she had no choice but to answer. She either lies and gives the politically correct answer the gay guy who posed it wanted to hear; or she is honest and true to herself and gives virtually the same answer Obama gave during the campaign and an answer in line with over 50% of the voters in one of the more liberal/progressive states in America. Which doesn’t exactly make her opinion a nutty or “fringe” point of view.

    Kind of lose-lose, for her, dont’cha think? So she does have my sympathy.

    Versus the Dixie Chicks who voluntarily made their statements, with no prodding or baiting from anyone – and who then took great umbrage and exception to the public reaction in response.

    But you are indeed correct. This is not a 1A issue.

    And good for The Donald for not buying into the ginned up nudie photos faux controversy. There were no porn photos. Beauty contestants have those sorts of photos taken of themselves all the time.

    Just my opinion, but the Gay Activists are really blowing (no pun intended) it with this strategy. Bad moves. Bad tactics. Which will NOT resonate with the people whose minds they need to change. It almost seems like they are getting their advice on how to win hearts and minds from the National Republican Party. :)

    Comment by southernjames — May 14, 2009 @ 8:23 am
  9. Beauty contestants have those sorts of photos taken of themselves all the time.

    But do self-professed Christians ?

    I’m just sayin’…….

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2009 @ 8:58 am
  10. Why not?

    Oh, I get it. You can’t be a Christian unless you follow the stereotypes certain non-Christians think you should follow – be repressed, sexless, covered from head to foot, boring prudes.

    Comment by southernjames — May 14, 2009 @ 9:13 am
  11. Oh, I get it. You can’t be a Christian unless you follow the stereotypes certain non-Christians think you should follow – be repressed, sexless, covered from head to foot, boring prudes.

    Frankly, I don’t care either way but I just find it culturally intriguing that she apparently has discovered a version of Christianity where it’s unacceptable for two people who love each other to formalize their relationship but it’s perfectly fine for women to pedal nude pictures of themselves and prance around stage in a bikini.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2009 @ 9:16 am
  12. 10 points about this silly controversy:

    1. Doug is absolutely right: Prejean’s First Amendment rights were not violated nor undermined in any way, shape, or form. This is a private contest and no one is entitled to win anything.

    2. Those who would say that the pageant has “no right” to “punish her” for her beliefs, riddle me this: do you believe the pageant would “have the right” to punish her if she said the Holocaust didn’t happen, 9/11 was an inside job, or said that interracial marriage should be illegal?

    3. Anyone who thinks Prejean is being “persecuted for her Christian beliefs” should look outside America to places like Iran and China.

    4. I also find it ironic that some Christians claim they are being discriminated against for discriminating against gay people.

    5. Prjean is not a hero, though I might say she was brave for speaking her mind (even though I disagree with her on this issue) when she could have given a more PC answer.

    6. If the people running the pageant didn’t want to risk hearing an answer to a question they did not like, they should not have asked the question. (IMHO they should do away with the questions entirely and stick to the swimsuit and evening gown competition…that would be more honest).

    7. Rather than allow Prejean to receive victim status, those who favor gay marriage should ignore her rather than give her all this attention.

    8. I viewed at least a few of the “semi-nude” pictures of Ms. Prejean (just for research purposes). Though they may be racy, I do not believe them to be pornographic. Anyone who has been to Times Square can tell you that the Cup-o-Noodle ads are more racy than these pictures.

    9.Having said that, it’s up to the pageant officials as to whether Prejean violated her contract.

    10.Prejean should own up to posing for these pictures and stop blaming the photographers. For someone who was so “heroic” about speaking her mind on the gay marriage issue, she certainly isn’t heroic in this instance.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — May 14, 2009 @ 10:06 am
  13. James,

    If Leftwing blondes like the Dixie Chicks or Susan Sarandan can scream and holler about their 1A rights being threatened, and cry over “censorship” when they got hammered for their opinions they decided to express about the war, then I figure a rightwing blonde is no less entitled to do the same.

    Actually, she’s fully entitled to scream and holler about “censorship”. And just as I did when the Dixie Chicks did it, I’m going to say that she’s an idiot and making a completely spurious argument.

    You and I (and Doug) agree that it’s not a 1A issue. As far as I’m concerned, I stopped caring about this even before I heard about it. Doug tends to follow these cultural/media issues a lot closer than I do, so he criticized her for making that argument when it’s clearly a misapplication of first amendment protections.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — May 14, 2009 @ 10:13 am
  14. 6. If the people running the pageant didn’t want to risk hearing an answer to a question they did not like, they should not have asked the question.

    Of course, they hired Perez Hilton to sit on the panel asking questions, so you can see how serious of a competition this truly is. The guy got famous for using MS Paint to write bad things about celebrities and post them on the web. He’s about as relevant to the world as, say, Carrie Prejean.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — May 14, 2009 @ 10:16 am
  15. Brad,

    “How serious a competition this truly is” can also be demonstrated by the fact that it’s owned by Donald Trump

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2009 @ 10:27 am
  16. “Just for research purposes.” Thanks for my laugh out loud moment of the day.

    Comment by southernjames — May 14, 2009 @ 5:50 pm
  17. I do what I can James :)

    Comment by Stephen Littau — May 15, 2009 @ 5:57 am
  18. 1st amendment rights? No, you are right on that. Her issues with the question that was asked of her, and the judging personnel are issues she should take up with Mr. Trump and his organization. However, some of the comments in the media afterwards by Mr. Lavandeira, Jr. and others like Keith Olbermann border on libel. Legally, her employer should not have released medical information about her, and the photographers probably violated their contracts with her by releasing her modeling photos without her consent. Her speech was protected, however, she probably has a case against numerous people who’ve allegedly attacked her and harmed her (reputation) intentionally.

    Comment by Max in Maine — May 15, 2009 @ 8:46 am
  19. Prejean claims she “lost” the title based on her answer – a bit arrogant, don’t you think? As if it were already hers? You have to already have something to lose it -

    I almost sympathized with her – then I got the whole story – she lied on her contract, claims to be a beacon of christianity yet posed for nude photos and then desecrated her body – where was “satan” when all this was going on?

    She has not taken a shred of responsibility for any of her own actions and has blamed everyone and everything (including the wind) for her “misfortunes”…

    She is supposed to be a “role model” for young women. Some role model. Both her and Trump have sent the message that it’s O.K. to lie and cheat, as long as you are blonde and beautiful.

    Comment by indygirl — May 15, 2009 @ 9:55 am
  20. I think you mean defamation – libel is when the statement is written and slander is oral – to be guilty of libel or slander, to put it simply, you must:
    1- tell a third person something about someone that you know not to be true
    2- as a result of what you told that person is harmed

    the pundit’s statements where NOT something they knew not to be true and were in fact something they believed to be true – and any harm to prejean is the direct result of her own actions -

    Comment by indygirl — May 15, 2009 @ 10:21 am
  21. Max in Maine: Your post sounds like you too are blaming everyone but the culprit. She has harmed her own reputation.

    I sympathized with Prejean at first, I commended her for asserting her belief in the face of adversary. Then came the backlash, and out came the truth.

    Had she not lied on her contract, violated her contract, posed for nude photos and got a boob job and then claimed to be a christain who’s decisions are guided by “satan”, apparently as it fits her own agenda, the arrogance of claiming she was already the winner of a pageant before it was decided, we would not even be talking about this anymore – she alone created the situation she is in but yet is blaming everyone but herself.

    People are talking about this because she is supposed to be a “role model” for young women. Both Prejean and Trump have sent the message that it’s O.K. to lie and cheat, as long as you are blonde and beautiful – how many times did he say that exactly?

    That is why we are still paying attention – what will be next.

    I wonder how this will affect one of Trump’s major demographics and their support of his pageants -

    Comment by indygirl — May 15, 2009 @ 11:08 am
  22. In her answer, she stated that Gay married was legal throughout the United States. It’s not even legal in California AND SHE’S MISS CALIFORNIA! When I first saw that clip I thought it was another Miss (“Because most Americans don’t have maps”) Arizona type thing. Think about it: the “National Organization for Marriage” has brought in a spokesperson who doesn’t understand the current laws on marriage in the United States!

    Comment by D Bernstein — May 15, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

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