“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 to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
It isn’t uncommon for people to reference the First Amendment, or shorten that to “freedom of speech,” but when you actually take the time to sit down and read word for word the first amendment of our Bill of Rights, it is both humbling and tremendously empowering to realize its depth and breadth.
Regardless of what hardships, controversies and conflicts our nation faces, you’ll still hear people citing rights unheard of in other countries as they proclaim it to be the best place in the world. I happen to hold true to that belief.
While the United States has never been, nor will ever be, perfect, I treasure the rights and liberties afforded to its citizens. Each and every one of these rights is of the utmost importance, whether it be our freedom to exercise the religion of our choosing, to the protection against illegal search and seizure. However, as both a journalist and a highly opinionated and outspoken woman, I can’t deny that I hold our right to free speech particularly dear.
I would be extremely hard-pressed to name an issue on which I remain neutral, but it would be equally difficult to identify myself with any particular political group, due to the fact that my views run the gamut of the spectrum from what is typically considered conservative to liberal.
I feel fortunate in that I can’t think of a day that has recently passed without discussion and debate among my family and friends. We mull just about everything over, be it politics, religion or current events, and we do so with respectful gusto. Although we each hold differing views and opinions based on our personal beliefs and convictions, as well as life experiences, we are able to agree to disagree when necessary.
Unfortunately, that is rarely the case for society in general. Lines tend to be drawn in the sand, leaving open and honest discourse a mere pipe dream. Such is now the case with regard to Chick-fil-A, a privately-owned company whose founder, Truett Cathy, and current leadership makes no apologies for its biblical-based belief system.
They now find themselves in a maelstrom of anger due to their open opposition to gay marriage. Those who support the rights of gays and lesbians to marry – which has been likened to the Civil Rights movement – say it is discriminatory, and many have called for a boycott of the popular restaurant chain.
That is one of the wonderful aspects of a free-market system – if you don’t want to support a business with your money, you are free to shop and eat elsewhere, and I fully respect anyone who chooses to put their money where their mouth is. Sadly, this particular situation has gone far beyond that, with many saying that the Cathy family has no right to take a stance on the issue of gay marriage, or to financially support ministries also opposed to it.
That so many people would seek to deny any American the right to hold and express their beliefs deeply troubles me. I have a number of friends who have said they will no longer eat at Chick-fil-A restaurants, and I support their freedom to make that choice, but I have also made it clear that I will never support their attempts to drown out the voices of those who hold personal convictions that oppose their own.
Regardless of how repugnant some of my friends and relatives may find this opinion, I will fight to the death for anyone’s right to state their views on this and any subject, no matter which side of the fence they are on. That, dear friends, is the foundation of our First Amendment right to free speech. It does not mean that only those who agree with our beliefs may speak openly, but that we all may do so.
While I hold my loved ones near and dear to my heart with the full understanding that they are my greatest blessings in life, I will not now, or ever, support anyone’s attempt to silence a dissenting view. I deeply value my Constitutional rights and liberties. I will never allow myself to be silenced, and I won’t support those who seek to do that to others. That does not constitute a slippery slope, but is rather a steep cliff, over which is the certain death of free speech, and I will not be one who pushes it closer to the edge.