Brandon Raub and the Victory for the Bill of Rights

In a victory for the Constitution, specifically the First and Fourth Amendments, former United States Marine Brandon Raub was ordered released from a psychiatric institution by a federal circuit judge. Raub had been taken into custody on August 16 after a triumvirate of freedom-hating jack-booted thugs comprised of the Secret Service, FBI, and local authorities in Virginia questioned Raub about posts he made on his Facebook page. Apparently irked by Raub’s responses, the officials sent Raub, against his will, to a mental hospital.

Raub had no doubt made a series of bizarre statements on his Facebook page, including claims about an imminent civil war in the U.S., the government raping children, and 9/11 being an inside job. Though these opinions are ridiculous, ridiculousness is not illegal. In fact, thanks to the First Amendment, ridiculousness is quite constitutional.

This would include inflammatory speech, so long as the speech in question is not meant to incite imminent lawless action, as the Supreme Court outlined in Brandenburg v. Ohio. That the authorities in this case did not arrest and charge Raub with any crime, indicates they were well-aware that formal criminal action against him was not feasible from a legal standpoint. Instead, it appears Virginia has a very low legal threshold for institutionalizing its citizens. John Whitehead, Raub’s attorney, told Business Insider, “I could call [the police] right now and probably get you committed if you were in Virginia,” adding, “They can arrive at your door based on somebody's testimony or your Facebook page and take you away to a mental hospital.”

That is scary prospect. What’s even scarier is the fact that the federal and state governments appear to be trolling the Facebook pages of private citizens for posts that deviate too far from what they consider to be the acceptable range of opinions. Whether you agree with Raub’s crackpot theories—and hopefully you do not—it is vital to the perseverance of the Bill of Rights that all freedom-loving Americans denounce the illegal detention of Raub as blatant violation of the most fundamental constitutional principles of freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable seizure.

In the days after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush insisted that the objective of the hijackers and those who sent them was to “change our way of life,” and that we mustn’t succumb to their volition. It saddens me to say that we have failed in this regard. We have allowed “terrorists” to become the government’s go-to excuse as to why we must give up a little freedom here and a few rights there. The ironic part is that Brandon Raub served in the U.S. military, which, according to established political orthodoxy, is the guarantor of our freedom. But if the current trend continues, we won’t need a military because soon there will be nothing left to defend. 

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