Rights And Freedoms — Part I — Freedom of Speech

1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 15 December 1791

Throughout the centuries, very few limitations have been placed on the First Amendment even as people pushed the envelope using it as cover for everything from child pornography to outright threats of violence.  Let’s make something perfectly clear up front here, since today all I hear is people proclaiming their ‘rights’:  Your freedom, your ‘right’ stops where it crosses the line of another person’s freedom or rights.  Period.

You have a right to exercise your freedom of religion by holding a religious ceremony for whatever purpose you see fit, but you cannot hold it on my lawn.  You have a right to tell me what you think of me, but not to threaten me or my family with bodily harm.  And I have a right to set limits in my own home, such as you do NOT have a right to bring a gun into my home. 

Two of my overseas friends last week, David in the UK and Andrea in Australia, both made essentially the same comment, that the United States has too many of the wrong sort of freedoms.  I didn’t have to think about it long … about 15 seconds, I think … to realize that they are both right and that I fully agree.  Our Constitution gives us a number of rights, but we have abused them, for we seem not to remember that with rights come responsibilities.  You have a right to say what you think, but also a responsibility not to cause harm.  You have a right to worship as you please, but also a responsibility to recognize and honour the fact that others have the same right and may not share your same views.

I was a teen during the Vietnam War years when protesting was almost a career for some, and yet I never saw the same sort of hatred, the incitement for violence, the outright lies that I am seeing in our country today.  Sure, young people were angry in the 1960s that our government was sending our young men – brothers, boyfriends, husbands – to fight a war halfway across the world that we knew could not be won.  But we didn’t threaten to kill.  We knew better than to cross certain lines of decency.

Not long ago, the Republican Party issued an edict of sorts claiming that the seditious attempted coup on January 6th 2021 was “Legitimate Political Discourse”.  My jaw still drops when I hear that.  NO, IT WAS NOT!  Police officers died defending the Capitol and democracy on that day. Property belonging to We the People was damaged, there were threats to the lives of Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. And the goal was to overturn the will of the people, to deny our voices, to essentially overturn the United States government and the Constitution. It was not discourse, it was not civil, and it was NOT what the framers of the U.S. Constitution had in mind back in 1787. 

I cannot condone, nor should anyone condone, the use of foul language or threats of bodily harm … that is not ‘freedom of speech’, that is incitement of violence.  When people condemn or threaten those in the LGBTQ+ community, that is NOT freedom of speech … that is robbing someone else of the freedom to live in safety, being who they are.  Again … your freedom STOPS at the point where it infringes on mine or another person’s.  You do NOT have the right to dictate who a person should marry, whether a woman should have a child or not, what religion – if any – a person observes, where they live, or what they believe.

We are a nation of rights and freedoms, but we have historically abused them, never more so than in this, the 21st century.  If we continue to abuse them, we will lose them.  No, that is not hyperbole … at some point, we will lose the freedom to say what’s on our mind if we cannot do so within the confines or decency and respect.  Perhaps James Madison, the chief author of the First Amendment, gave people too much credit for humanity, compassion, and human decency.  Perhaps they did not realize that at some point, destruction and inciting violence would be classified as ‘free speech’, else they might have put some constraints on that ‘right’.  Or, perhaps people then were kinder, more deserving of a nearly unlimited freedom of speech.

We hear a lot these days about individual ‘freedoms’ and ‘rights’ but very little about the responsibilities that accompany those freedoms and rights.  Over the course of the next week or two, I plan to do another post or two on other of our rights such as freedom of the press and the 2nd Amendment, the ‘right’ to bear arms.  Please feel free to make suggestions if there are other ‘rights’ you would like to see discussed.

27 thoughts on “Rights And Freedoms — Part I — Freedom of Speech

  1. Pingback: Rights And Freedoms — Part II — Freedom Of Religion | Filosofa's Word

  2. I live by two self-imposed tenets, being respect and responsibility. I must respect all life up to the point where it threatens my life, and even then there may be an argument why my life is less important than the life of another being. And I have a responsibility to all life to cause no intentional harm. We are all living beings, no matter our size, our strength, what we do, how we act, or what we look like. This respect must hold even when I am being disrespected by someone else, or chaos will follow.
    I am not saying there are no problems with the way I live, especially because life lives on life, and lives must be ended in order for other lives to survive.
    But when our lives are not being threatened for our survival, I must not cause harm.
    This is how I choose to live.

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      • No reason why they can’t. Except for Christians, who are taught their Supreme Leader gave them dominion over the plants and animals and birds. If he had known about dinosaurs, they probably would have been on his list too. Nor did he know about viruses, because most of them dominate humans without even trying. They have no idea humans even exist, just that our bodies provide a wonderful home for them to grow in.

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  3. I think, James Madison didn’t live in a capitalist society where making money and greed are the only “values” that count for anything. Yes, making money and abusing people happened as well but I think it was not advertised as much as the 24-hour news of today do. 🤔


  4. “Land of the free” has indeed a lot of sorts of freedom that people in other countries may only dream about but that also comes with a lot more insecurity for making a living. Over here you cannot be sent off from work, there is a law that says both parties have 1 to 6 months until they part ways (that needs to be part of the working contract). Health care is mandatory. But yes, we have a strict law also when it comes to guns, thank God.
    So, maybe our legal system is a bit tighter when it comes to doing what you want but it also provides a lot of safety.

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    • Wow … I cannot even imagine not being able to fire a person! Does that apply in all cases, even, say, if an employee shows up for work drunk or abuses another employee? I love that healthcare is mandatory and that you have strict gun laws! I wish I could say the same here. People have taken this notion of freedom a bit too far here, thinking that their personal freedom supersedes everyone else’s.

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      • No, there are situations in which you can send them off right away! But if everything is going ok, that makes sure that both sides have time to look for something or someone new.

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        • Ahhhh … that makes more sense, and I really like the idea, too! It gives a ‘cooling off’ period where maybe things can be worked out, and as you say, they both have time to seek other jobs or replacement employees without putting undue hardship on the family or the company. Yes, I like that!

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  5. Jill, our freedom of speech gives the right for people to prove the expression “it is better for people to think you are a fool, than speak and remove all doubt.” One of my favorite expressions of freedom of speech is the reaction to the small church in Kansas that would picket military funerals nationwide to express their concerns over gays and lesbians in the military. Yes, they had a right to be there, although their choice to harass families of the deceased was entirely inappropriate, but the response occurred when dozens of veterans would show up to block the view of the protestors by the families. They had a right to stand there and tell the families to ignore these boorish actions and actors. Keith

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    • Ahhhhh yes … the Westboro Baptist Church group. I, too, was thrilled that veterans showed up to block the view, but to me, the group’s attempt to disrupt the funeral of a veteran is beyond unconscionable. That isn’t free speech, it is cruelty. If I were a grieving widow and they did that, at least one of them would walk away with a seriously damaged face! Sigh.


  6. I so agree with both your other overseas’ friends and your post. In Switzerland, we have many rights too, but I firmly believe that some of yours would never ever find the way into the law. And then these dismal interpretations…. the mind boggles.

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  7. The thing about the Bill of Rights, is that Americans take these to be, absolutes, when, they’re, actually, conditional, you can have these rights, available to you, if you don’t use them, to, infringe the rights of, others, but, a lot of Americans just take these rights as, a given, and they abuse them…

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