Censorship by Proxy

Walter Olson of Overlawyered has another story of an elected official using the power of his office to (at best) criticize the speech of a private citizen (at worst, a veiled threat in a nice-place-ya-got-here-shame-if-somethin’-were-to-happen sort of way).  It seems that Delegate Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County) is not a big fan of same-sex marriage or those that openly agitate for it to become legal and sent a letter to the employer of said private citizen on official stationary.

Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County), an opponent of same-sex marriage, fired off a letter to the owner [PDF] of the Baltimore Ravens on legislative stationery demanding that he silence Brendon Ayanbadejo…

Mr. Olson also has a challenge for the conservative commentariat:

Pretty much every conservative commentator in America (properly) denounced the Boston mayor and Chicago alderman for menacing Chick-Fil-A. I hope some of them will speak up against this abuse of government office as well.

I consider myself a libertarian, but it seemed like a good idea, so Mr. Olson, you may consider it done.

Dear Del. Burns:

What in God’s name are you thinking when you send a letter to a private citizen’s employer on your official letterhead?  Are you so consumed by outrageous outrage that you don’t stop to think about the veiled threat that is communicated by this letter?  What kind of a censorious thug would insist that a company  “inhibit such expressions from your employee”?  Especially when the subject matter is one that is currently being hotly debated in the public arena.  And most especially when the request is made by an individual who writes the rules that said company will need to operate under, an individual who can certainly make life much more difficult if he wished to do so.

I fully recognize that, as a private company, the Baltimore Ravens can set limits on the speech of their employees that the government could not.  To go around the First Amendment and ask that a private company do what you cannot is reprehensible.

Like Alderman Moreno and Mayor Menino, you have violated your oath to uphold the constitution.