Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Free Speech Has Its Limits

Letters to the Editor submitted to The Coronado Times are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher, editors or writers of this publication. Submit letters to [email protected]

Submitted by Allen Frances MD

“All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness.”
– Tennessee Williams

Recently, a small group of cruel people in Coronado describe themselves as defenders of “free speech.” It’s OK for them to mob school board meetings. It’s OK to threaten and emotionally abuse school board members. It’s OK to throw tortillas. It’s OK to insult racial minorities and gays. It’s OK to use bullying tactics to restrict other people’s free speech. It’s OK to limit free thought and fact-based education in our school system. It’s OK to deny science, risking our kids’ health at school. It’s OK to spread lies and disinformation. It’s OK to pollute civil discourse. It’s OK to be coarse and brutish. The absurd claim is that “free speech” justifies a multitude of sins and makes everything OK.

Well, no. Like all sacred rights guaranteed by the Constitution, free speech has its legal, moral, and ethical limits. Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. Your freedom to speak freely ends when you willfully, maliciously, and falsely use it to harm others and compromise the common good. Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, speaking for the Supreme Court in 1919, used a telling metaphor to illustrate the legal limits of free speech: “Falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater and causing a panic” is not protected free speech.

The small minority of extremist bullies in our community are not exercising free speech, they are weaponizing it.

Allen Frances MD


Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]