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No, Prince Harry, the First Amendment Isn’t “Bonkers”

By Caroline Roberts posted on:
June 21, 2021

On May 8, the disturbing footage of a Canadian pastor’s arrest went viral.

The video showed Alberta pastor Artur Pawlowski being cuffed and dragged from his car along the freeway. Police held him to his knees as he struggled.

Artur was under arrest for the crime of holding church services that allegedly violated Canada’s new public health restrictions.

Artur was jailed two days and then released on bail. After the ordeal, he had some choice words for Canada: “They are doing this to me. They are going to come after you. It's just a matter of time.”

Just days after news of Artur’s arrest, in a new episode of Dax Shepard’s podcast “Armchair Expert,” Prince Harry sharply criticized the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “I don’t want to start sort of going down a First Amendment route because that's a huge subject and one I don’t understand because I’ve only been here for a short period of time, but you can find a loophole in anything and you can capitalize or exploit what’s not said rather than uphold what is said,” he tells hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman.

“I’ve got so much I want to say about the First Amendment as I sort of understand it, but it is bonkers,” he adds.

Yet it is the same First Amendment that protects Harry’s right to speak as well as the rights to freedom of religion, press, assembly, and petition.

As Harry criticizes the First Amendment while admitting he doesn’t fully understand it, the irony of his words escapes him. Harry, a member of Britain’s royal family and the Duke of Sussex, is bemoaning the amendment that protects the freedoms America’s Founders sought to secure when they declared independence from England’s monarchy. Harry is participating in a tale as old as time.

Now, we can’t presume his motives, but the fact that Harry is criticizing the amendment at a time when freedom of religion and speech are facing many threats around the world, including in the United States, is bonkers.

When the Bill of Rights was drafted, t he Founding Fathers recognized the value of protecting all peaceful speech, even speech they disapproved of. They believed that the marketplace of ideas should parse good language from bad. As William Blackstone said, “the disseminating, or making public, of bad sentiments, destructive to the ends of society, is the crime which society corrects.” Giving government officials the power to decide which speech is “good” and which is “bad” sets a dangerous precedent. The Founders recognized this because they understood the costs of restricting speech.

And, unfortunately, some in America today have experienced the cost of restricting speech firsthand. Take Chike Uzuegbunam for example.

Chike was a student at Georgia Gwinnett College when campus officials barred him from speaking about his faith with other students. And this didn’t happen just once to Chike—it happened twice. That’s why we challenged the college’s unconstitutional speech policies.

But college officials argued they should get a free pass for violating Chike’s rights because he had graduated and they had changed their policies, and two lower courts agreed with them. Thankfully, the Supreme Court did not. In an 8–1 decision, it ruled that government officials can be held accountable when they violate our freedoms.

When we trivialize religious freedom or freedom of speech, all Americans suffer, not just those with convictions like Chike’s. If officials are allowed to bar Chike from speaking just because someone disagrees with him, what’s stopping officials from barring your speech? Or Harry’s, for that matter?

Artur Pawloski knows something about this, but not just because of his recent run-in with Canadian law enforcement. Prior to becoming a Canadian citizen, Artur grew up under the rule of the Soviet Union in Poland, where he experienced, first hand, what it’s like to have no real freedom of speech or religion (among others). “Growing up under communist dictatorship, I mean, that’s a disaster, that’s hell on Earth, and I see it already in our western democracies,” he said in an interview.

Fortunately, the situation in America is better—at least for now. But that doesn’t mean we can forgo vigilantly protecting our freedoms. We must work hard to protect those freedoms, ones that even a queen’s grandson can enjoy—and perhaps one day appreciate.

Learn more about how Alliance Defending Freedom is protecting your First Amendment rights

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Caroline Roberts, Strategic Communications Writer

Caroline Roberts

Strategic Communications Writer

Caroline Roberts serves as a Strategic Communications Writer at Alliance Defending Freedom.


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