Brace yourself for an opinion that you are free to ignore to the same extent that I am free to ignore yours. That’s the point, isn’t it?
I have heard a lot of comments around what people are free to do or say according to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. I wonder if anyone has read it. Let’s remedy 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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This is a contract between the government and its citizens. This says that the government will not intervene or abridge its citizens rights to speak freely, or practice religion insofar as that those practices do not hamper the basic rights of others.
Oh, where does it say you can’t interfere or curtail the basic rights of life and liberty? In the Preamble to the Bill of Rights, where it says that the amendments are part and parcel of the main document.
It seems to me that some people are reading the words of the founding fathers in the same way that they read their religious doctrine: out of context and poorly interpreted. Note that I say “some,” because I am not an anti-religious crusader. I am opposed to people using false authority to hurt others.
The misinformed use two arguments based on this same amendment in order to bully LGBTQ members of the populace. The first is a perversion of the freedom of religion, and the second is a corruption of the freedom of speech.
Freedom of religion was granted originally because the Colonials were trying to put distance between the newly-formed government and the practices of England’s monarchy. The English were subject to a national religion because the King couldn’t produce a son with his wife, and the Catholic Church wouldn’t let him trade her in. Pennsylvania’s delegate, George Mason, argued that the states would feel better about the government if they were to include a declaration of rights promising that the new government would not impose such controls.
Nowhere in that promise was the guarantee that the majority–or, in the case of Protestant Christianity in America, the vocal minority–would be able to direct the conditions of society. It’s not even implied.
The Supreme Court of Michigan ruled against belief-based exclusion in 1890, in the case Ferguson v. Gies. From the ruling:
The man who goes either by himself or with his family to a public place must expect to meet and mingle with all classes of people. He cannot ask, to suit his caprice or prejudice or social views, that this or that man shall be excluded because he does not wish to associate with them. He may draw his social line as closely as he chooses at home, or in other private places, but he cannot in a public place carry the privacy
of his home with him . . . .Ferguson v. Gies, 46 N.W. 718, 721 (Mich. 1890)
As much as I would love to see a Hindu slap a burger out of a Westboro Baptist member’s mouth as he sat in Toby Keith’s I Love This Fucking Place™, it’s not precisely legal. If the analogy didn’t click, I am saying that there is no legal basis for trying to interfere with the rights of citizens based on religious beliefs. I feel like I shouldn’t have to mention that it’s really a terrible way to treat other human beings.
That’s my opinion.
Free speech is protected by the First Amendment, it’s true. That clause pledges that the government will not throw you in jail for stating your opinion. (How well that pledge has been kept is a tale for another time.) It does not, however, guarantee that anyone will listen to, or care about what the opinion is–even if you are of the opinion that the First Amendment makes it okay to belittle, insult, patronize, and proselytize. That’s still an opinion.
Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance. –Plato
I have stated mine in my own space. I don’t expect everyone to comply with my directives automatically. I wonder if everyone else could learn to do the same? Or do we have to keep hearing the echoes of this guy:
As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.