A weekly column by Jonathon S. Platt
The Lariat got served a gag order Thursday. Upon seeing it, I was at a complete loss for words.
Section two of our newfound gift says, “No member of the press shall make intentional contact with any member of the Court regarding the case aforementioned …”
This court-ordered suspension bars the Lariat from contacting members of Baylor’s student court, except in “procedural” and “substantive” matters, while McCahill, Hardy v. Kinghorn is being heard.
Simply put: This newspaper – a protected free press – is attempting to be silenced by a court – a protector of the law. See the infuriating irony?
Again, I’m stunned at this court’s audacity. In fact, I’m furious.
Being from East Texas, I hear people harp about their Second Amendment rights all the time. Over the Christmas holiday, a group of men stood on a street corner in my neighboring town with semi-automatic assault weapons strapped to their back. They didn’t care that coming up to my car with a flier and a rifle in hand made me uncomfortable.
They told me it was their right to bear their arms and so they were. I agree. That’s each American’s right.
Here at Baylor – and, ultimately, in America since 9/11 – we continually come back to the conversation of religious freedom, which is constitutionally each American’s First Amendment right.
People claim that their Christianity is attacked by having Muslim literature in public school. And other people claim that their lack of religion is infringed upon by the words “under God” in our national pledge.
But we are each guaranteed a legitimate right to worship, or not worship, whatever religion we want. Religious views cannot be trampled.
That same amendment says Americans can peacefully speak their mind.
Some say President Barack Obama is a socialist, Islamic extremist from Kenya. Some said during President George W. Bush’s terms that he was the devil in the White House. Both statements are in each camp’s unalienable rights.
Over the past six months, the nation watched as protesters assembled peacefully against the killings of unarmed minorities by police officers. Student activists even marched through the middle of our own campus.
That’s fully in their First Amendment rights.
And remember two years ago when thousands signed a petition for Texas to secede from the Union?
Each signature was perfectly protected.
At Baylor we’re required to take an American Constitutionalism class, so we all already know this. Each of these rights is drilled into our heads from the beginning of our education.
Yet it seems that the fifth piece of our First Amendment has been forgotten. While journalists are being subpoenaed, imprisoned and targeted, few cries are going out about these infringements.
I’ve written about this issue before, but from national and international perspectives. But now it’s in my backyard. And I’m putting my foot down.
The Lariat and all other newspapers publish freely based on the same document that lets activists march, speakers express, the religious worship, the accused speak and gun activists tote.
But it seems that my industry’s segment of our Constitution has been forgotten. I’m not going to stand for it.
So here’s my “intentional contact” to all who attempt to silence journalists, at Baylor and abroad: My pursuit to report is constitutionally protected and intimidation will not stop me. Try, but I’ll be dead before I stop this work.
And that’s firmly how I see it.
Jonathon S. Platt is a junior journalism major from Kilgore. He is the news editor and a weekly columnist for the Lariat. He also authors the Lariat blog “From the Wire.”