The Engage Family Blog

Official Blog of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

Free Speech is Going to Cost You

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The intended understanding of “free speech” is nearly non-existent in America today.

 

Is free speech, as intended in the First Amendment a reality in America today? In my opinion it is perhaps the most misused, misunderstood freedom we have. And, incidentally, if we are not careful, it could very well disappear altogether.

 

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says that we do indeed have the “freedom of speech.” (Click here to view the Amendments to the Constitution.) Now, I am certainly no English scholar but, in my understanding that means I am allowed to say what I want to say without fear of retribution. That does not means that people have to like what I say, nor do they have to agree with what I say, but I am nonetheless free to say what I want to say.

 

So, for example, if I am preparing to graduate from school, whether high-school or college, and I want to thank Jesus for helping me to get through my studies and helping me to achieve academic success I am free to do so. Or, if I am at work and I share my opinion that homosexuality and the civil rights struggles of African Americans are in no way similar, I should once again be free to do so.

 

And if I were to share my beliefs or my opinions on these or any number of other topics and someone were to threaten me, intimidate me, or in any way try to coerce me to change my view or recant what I said, I should reasonably expect to be outraged and be promptly defended by some great champion of civil rights like the ACLU…right?

 

Try telling that to Erica Corder, Ryan Dozier, or Crystal Dixon.

 

Erica Corder is the Colorado Springs Valedictorian who was told to issue a letter of apology for mentioning Jesus Christ in her graduation speech before she would receive her diploma. After being intimidated by school administrators to write the letter of apology, which included the words “I realize that, had I asked ahead of time, I would not have been allowed to say what I did…” Corder was “allowed” to graduate. The case has been taken up by the Liberty Counsel and is headed for appeals court.

 

Ryan Dozier is the Yuba College student who was disciplined for speaking to fellow students on campus about his faith in Jesus Christ. He was told that “free speech” was allowed only on Tuesday and Thursday between the hours of 12 and 1PM, and that if another incident occurred he could be expelled. The Alliance Defense Fund has taken up the case and a state court has ordered the college to suspend enforcement of the restrictions that are currently under challenge.

 

Crystal Dixon was an administrator at the University of Toledo before being fired for submitting an editorial to the local newspaper as a private citizen. Her article disagreed with a previous article that the struggles of homosexuals and the civil rights struggles faced by African Americans are at all similar. The university first suspended her, and then fired her for her article. Her case has been picked up by the Thomas More Law Center.

 

In each of these cases Christians are being harassed and persecuted for their personal beliefs. If you don’t think so then consider the following. Would Erica Corder have been forced to write a letter of apology if she would have mentioned Allah in her graduation speech? Would Ryan Dozier have been punished and threatened with expulsion for telling his fellow students about his faith in Islam? Would Crystal Dixon have been fired for writing an article sharing her support for the gay community? The answer is an obvious and deafening no!

 

So, essentially, what has happened is that each of these people have been punished for their own personal beliefs, which, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, are shared by a majority of Americans. And the message that has gone out with each of these cases is that we are certainly free to speak our minds…as long as what we say is “politically correct” and agrees with the mainstream thought on each topic. Forget personal opinion and diversity of thought, let’s just all say the same thing whether we agree or not.

 

But the ACLU did come to the rescue of one person whose first amendment rights were violated. Big Bear High School student Mariah Jimenez was ordered to change her t-shirt by her teacher and then her principle, or be forced to stay in the office all day. What did her shirt say that prompted the action? Her shirt read “Prop. 8 Equals Hate.” Mariah was expressing her opinions on a subject and was told she could not.

 

Now, for the record, I do not agree with Ms. Jimenez. But I will stand firmly by her side and defend her right to express herself. I will stand with the ACLU on the issue, though I disagree with much of what they do and what they stand for. Because, in the end, the fact is that Ms. Jimenez’s right of free speech was indeed infringed upon.

 

You see the idea behind free speech is that we are free to disagree. Why did the framers of our Constitution put that Amendment in there? Simply because they were tired of being told by the King of England what they had to believe and what they could and could not say. They knew that in order for a society to really thrive it must have a diversity of ideals. There must be the free exchange of ideas and conversation. Without this element all that exists is a society of robots who repeat everything they are told. What’s so great about that?

 

Why is it that the right to truly free speech seems available only to the rich and powerful? Anyone in Hollywood, in professional sports, or in a position of fame seems allowed to say anything they want with zero risk. And on top of that we are expected to fawn and slobber over every word simply because this person can act, or can dunk a basketball. Well whoop-de-do. Just because a guy can strap on a helmet and catch a football does not qualify him as an authority on social issues. And just because a woman can bare her soul and perhaps other parts of herself in front of a camera does not mean she is an expert at public policy.

 

But, if it is ok for these people to speak out and share their views then it should be ok for everyone. And the grand thing about free speech and democracy is that we do not have to agree. We simply have to respect the ideas and views of others in a civil way. I detest threatening and vandalizing churches for supporting Proposition 8 just as much as I detest “gay bashers.” I will stand and denounce the idea of murdering unborn children just as loudly as I will denounce murdering doctors for performing such procedures. Two wrongs never make a right, as my parents use to tell me.

 

I am disappointed that the ACLU would pick up the Jimenez case for being an egregious violation of free speech and choose to overlook the Corder, Dozier, and Dixon cases simply because they are religious in nature. Religious speech, much to the dismay of the politically correct crowd, is just as protected as any other speech in this country.

 

If you cherish the right to speak your mind every story in this article should outrage you.

 

Further Food for Thought:

Could Democracy Be Getting a Black Eye?

 

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