“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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
For some reason there seems to be more confusion and mis-information about this one short little paragraph than any other principle of this country (well except the 2nd amendment but we will save that for another day). My question is why is there so much confusion? If you read it, it seems pretty simple right?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
The government cannot establish a religion that is the official religion of the country. In other words we cannot be like Iran for example where Islam is the official religion and a integral part of the government of that country. Do you see anything in that statement that says that a bible study cannot use a general room in a high school that is open to other people for general use? Weird huh? Why is it I am always hearing about some school that is throwing some Bible study group out due to Separation of Church and State? Well that’s odd, I have read through that amendment three or four times and can’t seem to find those words, Separation of Church and State. Well why would that be? Everyone knows that there is a Separation of Church and State! You always hear that it is in the Constitution don’t you?
The truth is that those words do not appear in the constitution at all. So where does this confusion come from. The actual phrase comes from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to his pastor in Danbury, Connecticut. Jefferson was actually responding to the Pastor complaining about the government interfering with the church, not the other way around. Jefferson said that there should be a Wall of Separation between the Church and State. Meaning that the Government should not be interfering with the Church.
So the actual amendment says that “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” so Jefferson was right that the government cannot interfere with the exercise of religion. Does this mean that the Government can make it mandatory that kids in high school start their day with reciting The Lord’s prayer? Absolutely not because “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. Can a school set a time in the morning allowing student to pray? Absolutely! Why because “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” of course. If the school sets aside a time for kids to pray and does not tell them they have to pray, what to pray or whom to pray to it doesn’t violate the 1st amendment in any way. It is not rocket science is it? I believe I could read this to a group of third graders and they would say “Oh ya, I get it.
So why is 90% of the country so confused? Because the powers that be, those promoters of the left and the right, those special interest groups I keep mentioning want it to be. The Christian right wants it to support the idea that practicing Christianity in a government place or situation is OK because the founders were mostly Christian right? And our country was based on Christian principals. So they do not understand why people get so upset when someone puts a monument to the Ten Commandments up at a court house. Well while they are right that Christianity did play a big part in the founding of our country and the Ten commandments even played a part in the creation of our laws, but that does not change the 1st Amendment or give them any special rights.
The secular left will have you think that those little old ladies have their Bible study in the general room at the high school is a threat to the nation and their freedom from religion. Well that’s weird what was that amendment again?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
Is there anything in there saying that you are protected from religion? No it says that the government cannot establish a state religion and it says that the government cannot interfere with the free exercise of religion. Oops sorry, no protection from religion at all!! The only stipulation with the little old ladies having their Bible study in the general room is that the school allows anybody of any religion to use the room.
Actually the same goes for that monument to the Ten Commandments. If the court house opens it up to any religious group to put up a display then it is fine. That means that if a Satanic group wants to put up a list of the Satanic rites next door to your Ten Commandments it is perfectly fine. If you do not agree then guess what, down come the Ten Commandments. Sorry Christians, yes even Satan gets a seat at the table!
“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.”
This is the hardest one for people to wrap their brains around. Harder than Freedom of Religion? You bet! This is the one that gets me really riled up! The reason that it gets me so spun up is I totally get what that statement means and a huge portion of Americans do not have a clue! The reason it is so hard is people in general like to think that their speech is GOOD and someone else’s speech they don’t agree with is BAD! In reality speech is neither good nor bad, it is just……speech. It is all just a matter of perspective.
What does Free speech mean? Well it is kind of simple just like the Freedom of Religion. Actually when you say the words it is even simpler. Free Speech. In other words free to speak. Obviously it means that you are free to say anything you want because you are free to speak your mind? Can you limit what someone can say and it still be free speech? No. Limited, by its very nature, means not free. How much simpler could it get? Is there anything in the statement above that your speech needs to make anyone happy? Is there anything that says what you say cannot offend anyone? Is there anything that says you cannot speak about things or people you hate? Is there anything that says that your speech can not be derogatory to someone or a group of people? That’s weird, if you go by today’s news broadcasts you would think that it says all those things.
Well apparently I am just too dumb to understand what this little paragraph says. Maybe we could go to a college and ask them for their opinion on what it says. They are very educated and certainly much smarter than the rest of us (well at least me!). But wait that’s what the news broadcast I just saw was about. Something about hate speech and how we can’t have it and it happened at a college. What exactly is hate speech? Can I say bad things about somebody as long as I don’t hate them? Or conversely can I hate them if I don’t say bad things about them? Also there was that news broadcast where that conservative guy was going to speak and they had what amounted to a riot while they were trying to stop him from speaking because he was so controversial. Wait did I miss where it says you can’t be controversial? I better go back and read it again. No it doesn’t say that. They said something on that broadcast that those college kids were so upset about just the possibility of that conservative guy speaking that the college had to provide them counseling and a special safe space (no this is not a joke!) so that they could get over the trauma they had experienced at just the thought of him speaking.
What the hell has happened to this country? Are you frick’in kidding me? What kind of brainless pusses are we trying to raise here? If this is what they are teaching kids these days at our colleges and universities they should just all close their doors and go home. We are doomed! Why do you think they put the amendment about Free Speech in the constitution in the first place? It is because they had all left the old world because they had been persecuted for their Religion and their speech. They knew that governments could not be trusted and the first thing any corrupt government does is try to control people’s speech so that there will be no opposition to them. The could not speak without the fear of being killed or thrown into prison. If the government wants to shut you up all they have to do is deem your speech treasonous. “There we took care of that opposition, we will just lock them up and throw away the key. Don’t have to worry about those trouble makers anymore!” Hey isn’t that what they do in those Communist countries? Hitler was an evil dude and killed 6 million Jews. But do you know that the Bolsheviks killed some 20 million people, Stalin up the ante and killed some 40 million, and the winner is………….. Chairman Mao with a grand total of some 60 million people. Do you know what the last three had in common? You see they killed all these innocent people because they spoke out against their government. So before any chimes in with the bullshit about Communism works that these leaders just didn’t implement it right, BACK THE HELL OFF!!!!!!!!
So let me get this right. If I don’t like what you are saying, because I am against it or do not agree with it I can just label it bad and then you can’t say it anymore? “Wow what a deal! We can come up with a bad name for that speech, I know we will call it hate speech”. Of course that will work because nobody likes “hate”, right? “Boy I am happy I have stopped that other person from speaking. But wait, what if someone doesn’t like my speech? What if they if they call my speech hate speech? Oh no!! I didn’t think of that.” “Well we can stop the speech of white supremacist right, because nobody likes them!”
This is exactly why the amendment doesn’t say anything of upsetting people or offending them. Free Speech means just what is says. You are free to say whatever you want even if it offends someone else. Free Speech is not a popularity contest. This is because what is popular today will not likely be popular tomorrow. So YOUR speech that you think is so great may be the unpopular speech tomorrow. You have no way of knowing. You don’t want anyone stopping your speech do you? Since your speech is protected it allows for the minority to have a voice. It is exactly what allows you to speak out when your government is doing something wrong! If it wasn’t this way you would only ever hear the majority view. Remember the civil rights movement in the 60’s. There were plenty of people that wanted to stifle their right to Free Speech! Thank god for the 1st Amendment!
So the truth is that you have to protect everyone’s right of Free Speech no matter how vile and disgusting you may find it. Even if that speech goes against everything you believe in. I saw the perfect example of this on the news one day about 10 or 15 years ago. It was a black Baptist preacher in Alabama who was out in front of a newly opened Ku Klux Klan museum, that the town was trying to have closed. He was there with a picket sign protesting the right for the museum to be open. When a reporter asked why on earth he was doing this he said that he had to do it because some day it might be his speech that they are trying to silence. Little did I know but it turns out this guy was sort of a Nostradamus.
If you don’t believe that your speech cannot come into question because you know how good it is, consider the following. I do not mean this in a derogatory way towards Christians or the Bible or anyone in the LGBT community. This is just and example to illustrate the point. I am not choosing sides or saying which side is right.
For most of my childhood Christians had a lot of power in this country. You could not question their influence because their values came from a book that really could not be questioned in terms of moral authority, the Bible. When the gay rights movement started it received the most resistance from Christian groups. This was mainly due to the fact that the Bible can be interrupted as saying that they gay lifestyle is against God. Well certainly no one would try to ban the speech used in the Bible? It is the good book after all, how could they possibly ban anything it says? Have a look at just these two headlines, I assure you there is more.
“”The state of Kentucky has begun imposing a religious test on volunteer pastor counselors in its youth division, insisting that they refrain from calling homosexuality “sinful” and dismissing those who cannot bend their religious faith to accommodate the state requirements.”
“A father and daughter from a US church which preaches hatred of homosexuals have been banned from entering the UK.”
This is not a debate about the rightness or wrongness of the Gay lifestyle or Christianity. I am just using this as an example to show you no matter how good you think your speech is one day it may be the very speech that someone is trying to ban! I am sure if you went back twenty years ago and asked people on the street, even non Christians, if they thought in the near future people would be calling the teachings of the Bible hate speech and would be trying to ban it, they would have told you that you were out of your frigg’in mind!!!!!!!!!
So net time you hear someone spouting some speech that you find offensive realize that it needs to be protected. You can have a debate with them or stand peacefully on the opposite side and hold up picket signs explaining why you think that their speech or ideas are wrong. But if you see anyone trying to stop them from speaking you need to tell them the story about the Good book and protect their rights.
Now with every coin there is always a flip side. Nowhere in the 1st Amendment does it say that after you speak freely that everyone is going to like it or that there will be no consequences for speaking. Remember that Country band the Dixie Chicks. Yeah they had their moment of Free Speech, that certainly was their right. But if you make you’re living off of Country music fans and you decide to call them “red necks” and be critical of them and their culture, guess what? They don’t by your records anymore and then you end up on one of those “Where are they now” shows. No body infringed on their right to free speech, they got to say what they thought. The only problem is the fans also have their right to Free Speech and they decided to not buy their records anymore, no crime, no foul. The same goes for what is going on in football right now. The players have every right to express themselves. But if all the fans turn the T.V. off or stop buying tickets to the games they cannot cry foul because the fans have exercised their Freedom of Speech.
We are more divided in this country than ever before. People have been spun up in to an irrational frenzy. For about the last ten years or so many people have complained about Congress not getting anything done. I think it has been a blessing and is part of the genius of the founding fathers. Whenever there is a time when the nation is this polarized no new laws will be passed. That might irritate you but there is a special kind of beauty in it. The founders knew that if the country was being pulled to the extremes that it was not a good thing for the country as a whole. Any law passed during this time could not be good for the country because it would be too far left or too far right. So while the country is polarized like it is now nothing can get passed. When views start to move back to the center laws passed during this time are likely to be good for everyone so they are able to be passed. So it is by design.
This is why we all need to get back to, the center, the Middle way! I have been trying to point out in this series the following:
The kind of polarization we have right now is toxic and destructive for our country. It is OUR country.
Too many people are at the extremes. And few are toward the middle.
Neither side Left nor Right is right or has all the answers. Both sides lie to you constantly.
If you find yourself completely on one side you should stop, give it some thought, and re-evaluate.
Freedom of Religion must be protected. All religions have to be protected equally and people of the different faiths should be the first one to speak up if they see someone else’s Freedom of Religion being infringed on.
Freedom of Speech must be protected no matter how vile, derogatory, obscene, inflammatory, racist, or disgusting it may be. If you don’t your speech may be next. Remember the Good book.
Money is causing politicians to be bought by the highest bidder. I don’t believe that the founders could have foreseen how much money would play into the future of politics and the country as a whole.
There a very small number of very powerful people pulling the strings behind both parties.
Neither party gives a damn about you. They only care about advancing their party.
The media is controlled by a few very powerful people.
There isn’t any news anymore, it is all propaganda being pushed by the same few powerful people that own all the media.
We are Americans first, Left or Right second.
Citizenship must mean something, who is going to be willing to die protecting you if it doesn’t.
All citizens share in the benefits that the country affords them, they must also be responsible for the injustices that still exist and try to eradicate them. If the country fails so will you.
The Flag and the National anthem symbolize the “ideals that the country stands for” such as Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and Freedom of Speech and Religion.
The highest ideal that any country has espoused is “ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL” and desire to live FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let’s all work together to make this a reality.
Whew! Boy do I feel better! I hope some of you can get something out of all of this. I have been feeling very frustrated as I watch the country I love go down the toilet. If I sounded preachy at all I apologize that was not my intention. I also really do not mean to attack any one particular group as I feel that we all are at fault and all have something to gain if we realize that. So I hope that you can take this in the spirit that it was intended which was just to hopefully make people stop and think. See you next time! Thanks for reading.