Proposed State Legislation Threatens Free Speech Rights

Member Group : Americans for Prosperity-PA

The First Amendment secures freedom of speech, or “freedom of expression.” The founding of our country, and the drafting of our constitution, guaranteed this most distinguished right to free speech because it is a keystone of our country which, when upheld, makes our democracy thrive.

Freedom of expression denotes the inherent liberty to convey beliefs and thoughts without governmental interference, retaliation, coercion, or censorship. While “speech” typically includes verbal communication of these beliefs, “expression” encompasses various modes of conveying ideas, including speech, music, advocacy, and other creative endeavors. In our day-to-day lives, expression oftentimes manifests itself as the right to associate or volunteer with groups and organizations that promote ideas that you believe in.

Freedom of speech reflects America’s inception: from citizen protests during the Boston Tea Party to anonymous writings in the Federalist Papers, individual expression played a pivotal role in shaping our nation. In our current era, the prevalent threat of cancel culture poses a similar threat to free expression, but the threat of cancel culture doesn’t discriminate based on your partisan ideology. All Pennsylvanians can become victim to the threat of cancel culture.

Recent Harrisburg legislation poses such a threat to free speech. Civic leagues and social welfare organizations serve as platforms for individuals to voice their opinions and unite with like-minded advocates. Some of these groups focus on contentious issues, making them susceptible to cancel culture’s impact, particularly regarding matters such as reproductive rights, the right to life, and the right to bear arms. Individuals who support these causes expect their privacy to be safeguarded. However, if certain actors in Harrisburg get their way, your participation in such organizations could lead to unwanted exposure to cancel culture.

Alternatively, there’s widespread bipartisan and bicameral support for the Personal Privacy Protection Act, which aims to safeguard individuals’ privacy in civic engagement. Rather than jeopardizing thousands of Pennsylvanians’ free speech rights, legislative focus should be on protecting the privacy of all Pennsylvanians in their civic participation.

Free expression underpins American self-governance. It serves not only as a catalyst for truth discovery and progress, but also as an indispensable component of democracy. Most importantly, it facilitates discourse, persuasion, and consensus-building among citizens.

Casey Mattox, Americans for Prosperity’s Vice President of Legal and Judicial Strategy, puts it best, “You can’t self-govern without the people being able to speak to one another and persuade one another of things.” Effective self-governance necessitates unfettered dialogue and persuasion among citizens. Without free speech, Pennsylvanians cannot fully exercise their right to shape government policies and hold elected officials accountable—which we know is a necessity in this day and age!

As Frederick Douglass emphasized in his 1860 address, free speech is a sacred right that empowers individuals to challenge injustice and tyranny. He articulated it best: “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first strike down. They know its power.”

Every American has the right to organize around their beliefs and advocate for causes important to them, thanks to the First Amendment’s protection of free expression. This freedom of expression amplifies the voices of diverse groups and drives societal progress.

In the face of threats to our rights, such as the right to privacy and freedom of expression, it is imperative to defend all rights to prevent their erosion. Threats to free speech exist in both Harrisburg and Washington, and it’s never been more important than now for you to amplify your voice in defense of the First Amendment. Head to to join our movement to support free speech and protect your right to free expression.

This is Emily Greene, Deputy State Director with Americans for Prosperity-PA.