Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

First Amendment Freedoms

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns challenges to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There are more and more questions about what is protected by this amendment. Here is what the First Amendment says.

Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

            According to the wording of this amendment, “Congress” – and by extension all governments – cannot make any laws restricting religion or religious expression, speech, press, assembly, or petitioning the government. Yet, there are people who call for the restriction of these freedoms in one way or another.

            The freedom of expression has been challenged for numerous years by the concept of “political correctness.” Remember back a few years when “Christmas” became a bad word, and many demanded that we use “holidays” or “winter vacation” instead of Christmas? Later, we were called racist if we used the term “illegal aliens” instead of “undocumented immigrants.” Job titles had to be changed to accommodate different sexes, such as “policeman” became “police officer.” Any job title with “man” in it had to be changed to a neutral sex title, such as “chairperson” instead of “chairman,” “flight attendant” instead of “stewardess,” and many others. However, Americans would allow themselves to be pushed only so far.

            This article claims that the term “political correctness” arose in the 1990s from what one reporter saw as “a growing intolerance on university campuses for views that diverged from mainstream liberalism.” It also says that political correctness led to “the popularity of the Tea Party and the election of a president, Donald Trump, who made the shunning of political correctness a political trademark.” I was personally relieved that Trump made a mockery of political correctness.

            The above referenced article says that conservatives support the freedom of speech “more consistently than liberals, even when it’s speech that goes against their views…. By contrast, progressives have been more likely to advocate constraints, particularly on speech … seen as harmful to racial minorities and women.” It also states that conservatives would like ban the burning of flags while liberals say political donations should not be protected as free speech.

            I was amazed by the attitudes of some people when I read their comments on social media. Some people actually said that neo-Nazis should not have the freedom to assemble and the freedom of speech. I tried to help them see that all Americans have the right to assemble and to share their ideas, but they refused to change their views. The group had a permit to “peaceably assemble.” I understand that there was no violence until the counter-protesters arrived. The counter-protesters were there to deny the first group their right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech because they did not agree with them.

            I do not support neo-Nazis in any way, shape, or form. I do not understand why they push for socialism when we have so many freedoms in America. They do not make sense to me, but they have the same rights as you and I do. According to the above referenced article, direct threats are not protected speech. “But to count as a threat, speech has to incite `imminent lawless action,’ in the words of a 1969 Supreme Court ruling; merely advocating violence is allowed. This is why neo-Nazis are allowed to march, and to cast themselves as free-speech champions.”

            The law must protect both conservatives and liberals in order to remain just. We cannot take the freedoms outlined by the First Amendment from any group - whether we agree with them or not – or we will lose those same freedoms for ourselves.

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