Democracy depends on deliberation and debate, but when do we actually get to take on our biggest ideas? On Wednesday, June 12, at 7 p.m., Meg Mott, politics professor at Marlboro College, will open up the First Amendment for debate in the Main Reading Room of Brooks Memorial Library, 224 Main St., Brattleboro.
“The First Amendment is the Queen of Rights,” explains Mott. “Without freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, we don’t have a liberal democracy. But none of the freedoms in the Bill of Rights are absolute. Even speech needs to be regulated in order to protect the public peace. The question is, where do we draw the line?”
The presentation begins with a brief overview of relevant Supreme Court decisions. “The good thing about Supreme Court cases is that they provide reasonable arguments on both sides of an issue,” explains Mott. “You may not agree with a decision, but the reasoning is always thoughtful and considered.” Once the pros and cons are understood, the audience will be asked to weigh in on the debate. What does it mean for a town if some hateful speech is censured but other questionable comments are not?
The Debating Our Rights Series began after the 2016 election, when Emily Zervas and Janice Baldwin of the Putney Public Library were looking for ways to bridge partisan politics. They determined that a series on the Constitution might provide some common ground. “Debating Our Rights gave our community the chance to learn the historical context and changing interpretation of each amendment through discussion and informed presentation,” writes Emily Zervas.” Putney resident and current member of the Selectboard Laura Chapman agrees. “Meg masterfully engages a diverse group in discussions that explore our shared constitutional values and civic duties. Participants find themselves engaged in a way that naturally promotes reaching across the divide and leaves them with a greater understanding of our Constitution and how it affects all our lives.”
The Series will continue on July 17th with a discussion of the Second and Third Amendments.
The program is free, open to the public and accessible to people in wheelchairs. For more information call 802-254-5290 or visit www.brookslibraryvt.org .