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Freedom of Speech in America

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At the end of this discussion I have printed out the so-called “Bill of Rights” which are the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, passed all at once in 1789.  The American constitution is unique in that it is written to limit the government, not the people.  After passage of the initial articles, it was agreed more specificity needed to be added to things the government can’t do.  You see the Constitution says anything not expressly given to the federal government to do, is reserved for the states or the people.  Of course, this increasingly ignored and violated.  You can simply read them below and see what I mean.

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Today though, the First Amendment…

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.

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So do we really have free speech?  If you have a right, it cannot be taken away.  Why say you have a right to free speech?  Because many people don’t want you to say things they disagree with.  In early America, you could be flogged and jailed for saying you disagreed with the King, thought taxes were too high, wanted more representation, or simply refused to toast the King’s health.  Freedoms and rights ONLY matter when what you say is offensive, divisive and unwanted by people in power.

Recent evidence shows the federal government targeted through the IRS groups whose speech it disagreed with.  Reporters who said things that were not popular with the President were investigated, wire-tapped and initially charged with crimes.  A person who did some stupid internet video trashing Islam was jailed and had disappeared without trial.  Now we know from recent emails that the administration knew Benghazi had nothing to do with the video.  Where is the guy?

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In France, Brigitte Bardot was jailed for saying there were too many Islamic immigrants in France.  Recently, a candidate for office in England was arrested for quoting Winston Churchill’s early views on Islam in a public setting.  Hate speech, political correctness, racist comments and offensive people are best allowed to spew their hate and receive the consequences.

We can have websites that mock Christianity with the Great Spaghetti monster, but we can’t mention Al Queda on the 911 Memorial even though they took credit for the attacks.  We can have Starbucks criticize the Second Amendment, but we can’t have Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A express their beliefs on homosexuality or abortion.  We can have sex education and explicit books in schools, but not prayer and a kid pulls out a Bible on recess and has it confiscated.

Don’t get me wrong…  When people say things you disagree with, I support YOUR freedom of speech to criticize them, boycott them, etc.  I am not defending racists, homophobes, hateful people, offensive people or any of those.  I am only saying that they should be allowed to spew their thoughts and others should be allowed to react so that they bear the responsibility for their actions.  However, neither the government, nor institutions should be in the business of punishing anyone who disagrees with them.

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Recently we have the experience of an 80 year old racist.  He owns the LA Clippers.  A known gold-digger received over $1.8 million in gifts to have sex with him.  She taped over 100 hours of their conversations.  After his wife sued her for return of the gifts, she reveals 15 minutes of him complaining that she, his kept mistress, is posting pictures of black men on Instagram and taking them to the games.  Notably, Magic Johnson and Terrell Owens.  He yells at her that she can like them, have sex with them, or whatever, but it is embarrassing to him for his friends to see her out with them.  Is he racist?  Hell yeah!  Now the freedom of speech does not protect him from the NBA taking action, only the government.

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The head of Mozilla was fired for making a political contribution for a man and woman only marriage initiative ten years ago in California.  That proposition passed 2-1 and was the official position of Barrack Obama during his campaign at the same time.  Now, the CEO gets fired for it.  Is he anti-GLBTQ?  There is no evidence of that in his work record.  But he had a different viewpoint, so he has to go.

Universities now stifle the ability of freedom of speech.  Can they do that?  Well, the Courts say since they get federal funding they can’t have religious rules or discriminate, but despite that, they say they are private when it comes to freedom of speech.  Only freedom to repeat what is politically correct at that moment.

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The problem with all this is that by suppressing speech and punishing those you disagree with, bad things happen.  1) you won’t know the racists and assholes because they will go underground; 2) political donations will go undercover to protect donors; 3) one day it will be you that has an unpopular idea; 4) do you want a world where you can be fired at any time in the future because of any opinion you expressed anywhere in your past?  The point of freedom of speech is to protect people who say stupid, outrageous and offensive things.  No one limits people from saying “groupthink.”

We should all hesitate before inflicting restrictions on others when we may very well be next.  It is the same with the other rights below.  Why tell the government we have the right to bear arms?  Because governments don’t want the populace armed.  Unarmed people can’t fight back against government exceeding its authority and violating their rights.  At that time, it meant having weapons for the express purpose of being capable to overthrow a corrupt government.  Our Declaration of Independence says we have a responsibility to overthrow government that ceases to represent the people.  It does not mean a national guard, or shotguns, or registration.  It means a right, a freedom.  Don’t like it?  Then repeal the amendment, don’t ignore it.

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What about the 10th Amendment?  Why do we have national healthcare, national education standards, national drug laws, etc.?  Those were never given to the federal government, they are for the states or the people.  Each day your rights are being eroded and just like the frog cooking in the pot, if you turn up the heat slowly, it will boil to death and never jump out.  The hard part is to defend the rights of your fellow citizens to do things you completely hate and disagree with, so that you can live your life with liberty as well.

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The Bill of Rights: A Transcription

The Preamble to The Bill of Rights

Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Note: The following text is a transcription of the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the “Bill of Rights.”


Amendment I

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.


Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.


Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.


Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.


Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.


Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

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The Declaration of Independence

This holiday is often called “The 4th of July” rather than Independence Day.  It is important for us to take the time to remember that we do not celebrate a day in July, but we celebrate the statement of freedom and personal independence that was made on that day.  We have traditions for every holiday associated with their meanings, but Independence Day has become barbecues and fireworks.

declaration of independence

The Declaration of Independence was not just the start of the American Revolution, but of a revolution in thought.  The key phrase is this one:

“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.”

This was the basis for America.  That our rights are granted by God, not by governments.  That governments exist ONLY to serve their people.  In fact, the most radical concept was this one:

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

There is no freedom or liberty unless we remember those two sentences and embrace them.  Our founding fathers risked their property, reputation, and their very lives for this belief.  Please take a moment on this Independence Day to consider the Declaration, reprinted below including the brave people who signed it, signing their own death warrants were they to fail.

signing of the declaration of independence

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

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The Constitution – What Does it Mean to You?

I know I have thousands of people visit this site from outside the United States, so this is mainly for the people here in the US, but I would welcome your perspective as well.  In 1776, a group of predominately Free Masons met regularly to discuss big thoughts.  The biggest was mankind’s inate right to be free.  They decided to go to war with the most powerful, largest empire in the history of the world – The British Empire, in order to put in practice their revolutionary ideals.  They wrote a summary of their opinions in what is now called The Declaration of Independence.  The key phrase being:

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.

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They went further to state that government was created to serve the people, not the other way around.  That if government stopped serving the people, not only did people have a right to rebel, but they had an obligation to overthrow tyranny.  Thomas Paine sent these thoughts in longer form to the masses in Common Sense, which became the literary rallying cry of the people.  You must remember, that up until this time, for thousands of years, Emperors, Kings, Shahs, Warlords and the like were the way countries were ruled, and many believed in the divine right of monarchs.  Class systems of a ruling hierarchy with a permanent lower caste were accepted as the way things were.  To actually espouse that people were to be free and government served them was turning the world upside down.

These people went on to win, and to form the United States of America.  George Washington, who his whole life had been extremely ambitious, was so changed by the war that he turned down the offer to be King.  He agreed only to be President, with limited powers.

On May 25, 1787, the colonies agreed to the Constitution.  The most important feature of the Constitution is this:

The Constitution limits the government.  It says all power is with the people themselves EXCEPT those powers expressly given to the federal government.  It only limits government, not people.

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather Quill

On September 25, 1789, two years after the Constitution was enacted by the colonies to form a central government, the first Congress proposed 12 amendments.  The first two were not ratified, but 3 to 12 were.  These became our first 10 amendments, also referred to as the Bill of Rights.  Even though the Constitution was established to limit government, just two years later, most felt that government had to be limited even more specifically.  Again, all the Bill of Rights limit what government can do, not what people can do.  Here is a key phrase:

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The tenth amendment clearly states that if a specific power is not given to the federal government, then it is left to the states, or to the people.

CRITICAL ISSUE

Why is this important?  Today, there are two major schools of thought, strict constructionists and loose constructionists.  Strict constructionists tend to be conservatives who believe that the Constitution is a brilliant document and should be followed to the letter.  It preserves the rights of the people and protects against tyranny.  They read The Federalist Papers, a series of explanations on why the Constitution, our form of government, and each of the amendments was passed and its purpose.  These were written by our founding fathers to inform their fellow citizens of their thinking.

Loose constructionists believe the Constitution was good for its time, but it is dated, and seriously flawed.  These tend to be liberal jurists and politicians.  They often advocate using international law and modern culture to make decisions, and view the Constitution as a “living document” that they can change or ignore for modern circumstances.  In a 2001 Chicago Public Radio Interview, Barrack Obama (When he was a law professor and community activist) said that, “The Constitution reflected fundamental flaw of this country that continues to this day.”  You can here that comment here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11OhmY1obS4

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President Obama has also stated that the Constitution is flawed because it says what government can’t do, but not what it can do.  Strict constructionists do not view that as a flaw, but as the intended strength and core of the document.

WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU

The second amendment guarantees your right to bear arms.  The founding fathers put this amendment in so that if government got out of hand, people could rise up and rebel.  The right to bear arms was the right to overthrow a corrupt government.  The British tried to suppress the rebels by collecting their weapons and stopping them training as a militia.  That is how the first battles at Lexington and Concord came about.  British troops were sent to collect people’s weapons and to stop them training as a military unit on the common greens.  That is a sobering thought, that we are allowed weapons so we can take over our government.  And yet, our “loose constructionists” support this same idea when they give arms and support to rebels in Libya, Egypt and Syria to overthrow their corrupt governments.  They support the second amendment for others, but not for us.

If you don’t like the second amendment and find it outdated, their is a process to change it.  However, to avoid this, the federal government is seeking to curtail the ability to purchase and own weapons despite the constitutional guarantee.  Is the Constitution outdated and can the government simply ignore it?

Healthcare reform is also in my opinion a clear violation of the tenth amendment.  So is the Federal Department of Education.  There is no authority under the Constitution for the federal government to run health programs or education programs.  Those are reserved to the individual states and the people.  Do you care?

The loose constructionists major argument is that the government can be trusted and people cannot be.  People cannot own guns, because they will kill others.  People cannot understand healthcare and will be ripped off, so the government needs to step in.  People cannot buy plumbing that wastes water.  People cannot buy lightbulbs that are not efficient.  People cannot buy cars with better mileage.  People cannot choose the best school for their children.  Government is the answer to protect people from their own dumb decisions.

Strict constructionists believe people can decide their own lives and use of money better.  Even if people do make stupid decisions, it is their life and their God given right to do so.  They believe that government is the problem, taking more and more money, controlling more and more of our lives, and only interested in its own growth.  They view having bureaucrats and do-gooders running their lives as the whole reason we rebelled from Britain in the first place.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  DO YOU CARE?

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