Editorial: Careful what you sign. Petitions aren’t always what they seem.
I remember that I was a bit hesitant when I first signed up to receive petitions online, and even if the petition wasn’t overtly against something, I usually signed it nonetheless, mainly because I felt like it was something I needed to do. In the weeks and months after that, and for quite some time after that, I received dozens of petitions online, either by email or through my contact list, and I never looked at them as anything other than a convenient and very effective method for me to sign petitions.
But of course I was wrong. As I delved more deeply into the world of petitions, something changed in me, and I realized that it wasn’t the petitions that were the problem, it was the lack of transparency in how the petitions on the internet were distributed, who exactly was distributing them, and whether or not those distributions were in compliance with the First Amendment, which is the heart of the First Amendment. I realized that the First Amendment is not simply about people signing petitions about something, but about people using petitions as a vehicle to actually get something done through a process that is transparent and legal.
I got a lot of emails and phone calls from readers asking me to explain why I had signed those petitions and what they meant, and I was having a hard time articulating it myself. It was only when I started to read the actual petitions themselves that I finally understood what had happened to me.
I signed a petition that said we needed to have a single policy for how to handle the death of children as a result of abortion. When I first signed that petition, I honestly hadn’t gotten very far in my work on the issue, so I wasn’t quite sure what it meant when I finally saw it. I did know, that to me, it was the equivalent to signing a law requiring all businesses to treat all employees, regardless of race or color or sexual orientation, equally. How can that be a bad thing? Right?
My first inklings that I was wrong came when I saw the petition with over 100,00 signatures, which was signed by approximately 50,000 people. I began to read the petition, one that called for a pro-life law