Comments about ‘In our opinion: Silencing panhandlers violates First Amendment rights’

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Published: Tuesday, Oct. 9 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Eagle Mountain, UT

While I abhor the idea that anyone would need to panhandle to survive, I have never thought of it as someone exercising their right to free speech. Completely changed my outlook on the entire matter.

Thanks Deseret News.


I agree completely. Just because someone is poor and dirty doesn't disqualify them from practicing their right to free speech.

On another note, I often hear people respond to this question by saying that these people should get a job. That's their opinion and they are free to it, and personally I would rather be employed than panhandle, but those on the streets shouldn't be forced to fit into our ideas of what normal is. Interestingly enough, these people are offering a service which is in demand. When people give them money, the people feel good about themselves. Whether this is an honest feeling or a false one is a matter of opinion, but judging by the fact that panhandlers survive, it must be profitable. So, the next time you see a panhandler, I would recommend that you think of them as someone selling an easy opportunity for people to give a few bucks and feel better about themselves. Then you are free to say "I'm personally not interested in that product," and continue with your day. Good luck to everyone in whatever business you're pursuing.

Salt Lake City, Utah

The author says "many people don't want to be reminded that poverty exists, or that they have a moral responsibility to do something about it."

No, most people want to help the truly deserving. That is what Inner City Missions are all about - helping the poor and needy.

What we don't like is giving money to able bodied people who find it easier to beg for money than work for it. A classic example are those who sell their food stamps for drugs then come looking for a handout.

Danny Chipman
Lehi, UT

Panhandlers are welcome to exercise their right to free speech, but if that right extends to banging on my car window demanding money or attention (not sure if it was this guy or another in the news this week doing just that), then it becomes a safety issue and should not be tolerated. Cities have the right to prohibit "aggressive" panhandling.

Salt Lake City, UT

Driving by a certain home improvement store one often sees Hispanic men looking for work, not panhandling. The contrast is graphic. Freedom of speech is not an issue, it's protected by the Constitution. There is an issue of freedom from aggressive panhandlers.

Layton, UT

"There is an issue of freedom from aggressive panhandlers."

Carrying a sign does not make one aggressive. You're trying to introduce an issue here which is not really relevant.

If you do get bothered by someone "aggressive" I guess you can always walk away, or call a cop if it rises to assualt or disturbing the peace. I find your concern spurious though, given the amount of time I spend downtown. Most panhandlers don't even talk, they just hold their signs. When they do verbalize a request, I tell them I am not carrying cash, and walk on. End of conversation. I'm not sure where you hang out.

Moab, UT

A study has shown that the average panhandler makes $190 a day. I doubt they pay taxes on it.

Salt Lake City, UT

I really love how the right to free speech has be come the right to use public property for actions like begging. What an amazing illogical extension of the Bill of Rights. Certainly, those that wrote the first 10 amendments did not vote for laws that allowed such activities in their public square. But, as the article states this is how the person earns his living. Nice career choice I guess in the Obama economy.

Ogden, UT

I do not blame the author for the ignorance demonstrated in this article because in truth most people are ignorant of the truth about most panhandlers. Most panhandling is a form of low level organized crime. I was a police officer and dealt with panhandlers on a regular basis. Have you ever wondered why a panhandler is in the same place and almost no one else ever stands at that location? It is because panhandling locations are controlled territory by a boss or pimp. The panhandler will work a corner for the day then give a percentage of the money they got to the pimp. I once saw a female panhandler show up to her regular location and there was another male panhandler there panhandling. The female panhandler got on her cell phone and called her pimp. A few minutes later the pimp showed up in a very nice car and physically moved the male panhandler. Not all panhandlers do this but you can bet that the panhandlers in the good locations with high pedestrian traffic definitely are. If you want to give to the poor give to a charity or a church that assist the poor.

provo, Utah

I say the panhandlers should go in front of Chick-fil-a while remaining on public property. Shurly Chick-fil-a and it's patrons understand and appreciate the first ammendment... for everyone.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

I ALWAYS give whatever I have to those on the streets.
I've taught my children to do so as well.

If not cash, an apple or sandwich.
No hand is left empty.

"Because I have been given much."

“Suppose that in this community there are ten beggars who beg from door to door for something to eat, and that nine of them are imposters who beg to escape work, and with an evil heart practice imposition upon the generous and sympathetic, and that only one of the ten who visit your doors is worthy of your bounty; which is best, to give food to the ten, to make sure of helping the truly needy one, or to repulse the ten because you do not know which one is the worthy one? You will all say, administer charitable gifts to the ten rather than turn away the only truly worthy and truly needy person among them. If you do this, it will make no difference in your blessings, whether you administer to worthy or unworthy persons, inasmuch as you give alms with a single eye to assist the truly needy.” ~ Brigham Young

P.S. - Follow the Prophet

Bountiful, UT

Sorry, commentator, but panhandling is NOT a free speech issue. Hasn't anyone ever asked themselves why the Constitution does not address whether or not a citizen is allowed to steal or lie or cheat? It is because the Constitution was never intended to address what a citizen is allowed to do to another citizen. That's the business of local legislators. The Constitution merely ties the hands of the Federal Government. Free speech merely means that the Federal Government cannot punish you for speaking out against the government. THAT is free speech.

Why can't you slander someone and istroy their reputation? Why can't you change a few words in someone's book and sell it as your own? Because your speaking is targeting and harming a citizen--not the government. Therefore it is not protected.

Misguided progressives have successfully muddied the whole notion of free speech by re-inventing it as something that somehow protects everything anyone wants to say regardless of who it hurts.

If panhandlers are not hurting anyone, then we should let them be. But if their behavior is hurting other people, stop pretending it is a free speech issue.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Re: freedomingood provo, Utah
"Shurly Chick-fil-a and it's patrons understand and appreciate the first ammendment... for everyone."

I rather doubt that Chick-Fil-A and it's patrons understand and appreciate the 1st Amendment any better than McDonalds or Wal-Mart. Not quite sure why you would try and make that connection unless it is a red herring.

spring street

the comments disparaging the homeless, poor and panhandlers reflect very poorly on the people that post the comments not the people they are attacking.

Salt Lake City, UT

I think the DNEWS Editorial staff should do some real reporting.....they might find that many who carry a "will work for food" live better than those who do not and get welfare to boot!

J Thompson

How about asking those who carry a sign saying that they will work for food, what kind of work they are willing to do? I've done that. I've offered work. I've offered food in exchange for work.

Do you know what? They weren't interested. They didn't want to work.

In the real world, we would call that "false advertising" or "bait and switch".

If someone carries a sign offering to work for food, offer a job and see what he or she says. Don't be surprised if he or she spits in your face and calls you some obscene name.

There are good people who need help and those of us who regularly give "fast offerings" and other charitable donations to help those who are needy. Hiding behind "freedom of speech" to get gain is despicable. It is the same as being a "preacher for hire".

Good people do good things because they are good.

Evil people prey upon good people.

Give to the beggar if you know him or her, but I choose to give to the organization that cares for millions of beggars world-wide.

Bountiful, UT

@ spring street and LDS Liberal,
Actually, judgmental comments speak poorly of those use them.

No one is attacking the poor or the panhandler. Panhandling may be necessary when there is no other means of attaining food and shelter. But when our society makes sure there is food and shelter available for the homeless, you who give to the panhandlers are only providing for them the drugs and alcohol that keep them down. If that makes you feel good about yourselves, good for you. But as for me, I'll keep donating my money to the food bank, fast offerings and Salvation Army.


@j thomas
you "choose" to give to your church because it keeps you in good standing and on the hopes and expectations that it will someday get you into heaven not the same as true charity.

spring street

@j thomas
please tell us exactly where Christ tells us that we should label those beggar we judge as the undeserving as evil? Where exactly does he say anywhere that it is up to you to decide how is worthy of giving? Did he only give to those he determined where following his commandments or who he thought where worthy or did he give with both hands to the staring child and the street walkers etc...?

Salt Lake City, UT

Good on you. Come to my part of the city next. LDS liberal can give to whom he or she may, but stop the sermons. A fool and their money are soon parted. Giving to St. Vincent's or the SL Rescue Mission does more good and will make your kids feel even better.

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