Thursday, August 19, 2010

Do Nazis Have the Right To Put Up a Sign Next to the Holocaust Museum?

by Brian Palmer

August 18, 2010

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in arguing against the proposed mosque near the World Trade Center site on Monday, noted that "Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington." Since then, Gingrich has been under fire for equating Muslims with Nazis. Is he right on the law?

No. The overriding principle in free speech law is that any restriction on, say, putting up a sign should be viewpoint-neutral. In other words, the government can't silence a speaker based on the content of his message without a really, really good reason. (There are a handful of exceptions, like obscenity and defamation, but none of them apply here.) If a well-funded group of anti-Semites wanted to set up a reading room where young Nazis could gather to contemplate Mein Kampf and sip ice-cold Fanta, Uncle Sam couldn't stop them, even if their plot were located two blocks from the Holocaust museum.