In the tempest in a teapot that is the Aladdin Casino President Bill Timmin’s decision to boot Linda Ronstadt after her tribute to Michael Moore, I have been waiting for someone to make an argument based on the First Amendment. Sure enough, Moore made the argument himself:
Moore wrote a letter to Timmins on Monday saying he thinks the casino president owes Ronstadt an apology.
"What country do you live in?" Moore asked. "Last time I checked, Las Vegas is still in the United States. And in the United States, we have something called, ’The First Amendment.’...For you to throw Linda Ronstadt off the premises because she dared to say a few words in support of me and my film, is simply stupid and Un-American."
For Mr. Moore, here is a little lesson in Con Law 101. The First Amendment states in relevant part that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . ." Through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, "Congress" is now interpreted to include state governments. So unless he is arguing that the casino is the federal or state government, Moore has shown his vast ignorance once again. And no, the ethereal spirit of the First Amendment does not really mean that private parties are forced to subsidize speech with which they do not agree (keep in mind that Ms. Ronstadt was a paid performer). Quite to the contrary, implicit in the First Amendment is the freedom of association--which includes the right (with certain limitations) to exclude those with whom you disagree. Accordingly, the Democratic National Convention does not have to feature Ann Coulter, and the Republican Convention does not have to feature a duet by Linda Ronstadt and Michael Moore. Moreover, I don’t have to invite Michael Moore to join me for a welcome back from Iraq party, and he doesn’t need to invite me to his movie’s after-party--and we can expressly not invite each other strictly because we disagree with the others speech. We can even kick each other out of the respective parties if we find the other’s views unacceptable. And, to the case at issue, a casino does not need to tolerate a paid performer using their stage to promote a commercial movie unrelated to her performance or political views which are unpopular to the casino’s clients. It is astounding to me how many people make the remarkably dumb argument that the First Amendment is intended to regulate private entities or persons. It is not, and if you think about it for more than a couple of seconds, that is a good thing. While there is merit in the interaction of ideas, not every stage is a street corner, and it is well within the rights of the owner to prohibit speech with which he disagrees for reasons of principle or profit.