Did I get your attention? Did I offend you; make you mad? Good, it’s about time you know how I’ve been made to feel for quite some time. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the times I’ve been told I need to stop saying or writing the things I do because they are offensive; incendiary. I think I can safely say that I have studied the Constitution; the Bill of Rights; and the writings of the Founders much more than 90% of the rest of you, and I don’t recall anywhere in my reading did I find that you have a right to go through life not being offended.
However, the very first amendment to our Constitution protects the right of the people to speak freely. People still believe that they have freedom of speech; but do they … really? Or, have political correctness and a concern over hurting someone else’s feelings limited your right to say whatever you want? If you want my opinion, it seems Winston Churchill was right when he said, “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”
I have lost friends and made enemies because I have dared to tell them truths that they did not want to hear. I have been turned in to Human Resources at work for being offensive when all I’ve done is try to set the record straight in regards to the truth about the Civil War. I have been called racist or sexist because I did not support the policies of black or female candidates for office. In all this I was only presenting facts; the truth, and for that I am the one who is accused of doing something wrong? No! What is wrong is that today, people’s feelings are more important than the truth. Today, protecting your ignorance is more important than learning the truth, and I’m getting awful tired of it.
As with all rights; you cannot abuse them; for with all rights come responsibility as well. For instance I am free to walk down the road gesturing wildly with my arms, but the moment I make contact with another person I have abused my right and might find myself charged with assault. The same is true about freedom of speech; you can say whatever you want, but if the things you say bring harm to another, and are later proven to be untrue, you can be charged with libel or slander. On the flip side, however, if what you say about someone proves to be true, and it ruins that person’s reputation, then the truth prevails…or at least in a sane world it should.
In a sane world people should be free to openly discuss ideas between each other without fearing that they are offending someone. Honestly, if the open discussion of ideas and beliefs offends you, then maybe the problem lies with you and not the person saying the things that you find offensive. As I said, in all my readings I have not found anything protecting your right to not be offended, but I have found plenty which protects a person’s right to speak freely.
Therefore, if we truly have freedom of speech as so many claim, should not people be allowed to speak whatever they wish as long is does no harm to another’s reputation? For instance, those who do not believe in God do not have a right to prohibit someone else from openly praying, or discussing religion.
I get it that some of you do not believe in God, and that is your right to choose not to; but you cannot deprive someone who believes the right to practice their beliefs simply because you choose not to believe. I cannot empirically prove that God exists; but on the other hand you cannot disprove it either. By restricting a person’s ability to openly pray or discuss their religious beliefs you are, in effect, limiting their freedom of speech.
But don’t take my word for it; here is something Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789, “The rights [to religious freedom] are of the natural rights of mankind, and… if any act shall be… passed to repeal [an act granting those rights] or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.” (An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom)
If that isn’t enough, Jefferson, in his Notes on Virginia, Jefferson wrote, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are only injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Finally, if that doesn’t convince you, Jefferson writes in his draft of the Kentucky Resolutions, “One of the amendments to the Constitution… expressly declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,’ thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.”
So, it matters not that you find the open discussion of religion offensive, by your demanding that it be taken out of public places and kept within homes and churches you are guilty of tearing down the basic principle the First Amendment Stands for; absolute freedom of speech.
But it is not just religious freedom of speech which has been restricted; it is freedom of speech in which one group disagrees with, or finds the truth to be offensive. A perfect example of this is when people discuss the Civil War. When discussing the War Between the States most people simply recite what they have read in textbooks or what they hear from ‘supposed’ experts on the subject. By only hearing a biased version of the history leading up to the Civil War they have been programmed to believe that the North was fighting a righteous war to end slavery and that the South was this evil portion of the country that only cared about perpetuating the institution of slavery.
When one takes the side of the Confederacy, or the seceded Southern States, they are immediately labeled as racist and prejudiced; and it matters little how much evidence is provided to support their view, people simply don’t want to hear the truth. In fact, I personally have been turned in at work for providing evidence that the North, and Abraham Lincoln in particular, could have cared less about freeing the slaves, and that he was in fact, was a racist pig unworthy of the adoration given him.
The truth of the matter is that the Civil War was fought because one portion of the Union felt that the government was becoming oppressive and they sought to separate themselves and form their own system of government which, “… seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence) Had Abraham Lincoln allowed the South to secede in peace, and not raised an army to use force in an attempt to compel them into remaining in the Union, there would have been no war.
Abraham Lincoln himself said that his reasons for fighting the war was not to free the slaves; but to preserve the Union. In a letter he wrote to Horace Greeley Lincoln states, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.”
In fact and this is the evidence for which I was turned in for, Lincoln himself felt that slaves were inferior to the white man. In a speech given September 18, 1858 Lincoln made the following statement, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
I understand that the above quote is offensive; I find it offensive. Nonetheless it is a part of history, an irrefutable fact that these were Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts; not mine. Therefore, how can the dissemination of truth be considered offensive and the speaker of it be censored? Is that what you call freedom of speech? Or is your interpretation of freedom of speech one in which only your views and opinions are entitled to the protection the First Amendment provides?
I could go on with more examples of how freedom of speech has been restricted but I think you get the picture; at least I hope you do. Freedom of speech encompasses the right to speak ideas and beliefs that others may find offensive and controversial. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
How can freedom of speech exist when political correctness and a concern for someone’s feelings take precedent over the free exchange of ideas? On April 21, 1803 Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush wherein he offered some sage advice in regards to all rights; including the freedom of speech. Jefferson’s letter states, “It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by changing circumstances, become his own.”
What this boils down to is this, if you wish to see your rights preserved then you should be concerned about the invasion of others rights as once they begin violating the rights of others there is nothing to stop them from coming after yours. Think about that the next time you seek to limit the freedom of speech of others because next time it might be your freedom of speech that comes under attack.