“You have the right to free speech … unless I don’t like what you’re saying”

The great thing about the United States is that we all don’t have to be united under one belief.

We’re free to choose who to pray to (if anybody), we’re free to choose our favorite sports teams and we’re free to have our own political beliefs. We’re free to be free.

We have the right to be free and express our beliefs how we choose.

It says so in the Constitution, right there under under the Bill of Rights. It’s Amendment I — most commonly referred to as 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.

The government doesn’t dictate how, or if, we pray.

The government doesn’t tell us not to support something.

The government doesn’t limit newspapers or websites or even stop protests (yes, there are certain ordinances in place depending on your municipality).

Simply put: You. Are. Free. To. Speak. Your. Mind.

So why do some folks want to keep others from doing that? Specifically, this post was written out of frustrations I have with a friend of mine — Ginny Montanez. She’s the writer behind That’s Church, the popular Pittsburgh-focused blog.

In a post Monday, Montanez asked Pittsburgh Steelers player Rashard Mendenhall to “delete your Twitter account.”

Why did Montanez, who is afforded the same rights as Mendenhall, ask him to do this? She apparently doesn’t agree with what he is saying on his Twitter account.

Mendenhall has come under fire for comments he has made about women and about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Montanez is free to disagree with Mendenhall’s comments, but asking him to remove his Twitter account simply because she does not agree with his opinions goes against everything the United States was founded on.

On my personal Facebook profile, a discussion waged on about the issue (last count, there were 46 comments on this one shared link).

Some of the comments suggested I was out of line or that I shouldn’t share my opinion. But what many folks who shared their comments fail to realize is that (1) I did not say whether I agree or disagree with Mendenhall’s remarks and (2) I was simply defending his right to post whatever it is he wants.

You, me and anybody that’s a citizen of this country has the right to speak. And, people have the right not to listen. But what we can’t do is expect somebody to stop giving their opinion simply because we don’t agree.

I’ll defend anybody’s right to free speech. I don’t care if their view and mine are completely opposite of one another. What matters is that they are free to share their thought.

Great debates allow us to find new respect for one’s views, and, possibly, to change our own views.

When this discussion comes up, I always reference the Westboro Baptist Church, who are known for protesting funerals of soldiers who have been killed. The group often carries signs that say, “God hates fags.”

Their decision to protest funerals of solders seems to be unpopular among many individuals and other groups. But, like it or not, they are given that right under the United States’ Constitution. Their protests are peaceful (to my knowledge). They literally stand on a corner holding signs.

So they are legally within their right to do so. As are the folks who gather at another corner to protest the Westboro group.

When I defend their right, people automatically assume I support their beliefs and begin attacking me. It always puzzles me.

But, it comes back to one point — some people fundamentally don’t truly believe EVERYBODY has the right to free speech.

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4 thoughts on ““You have the right to free speech … unless I don’t like what you’re saying”

  1. zenaerobics

    Good point, I agree. Rather than telling Mendenhall to stop sharing his opinions Montanez should have expressed her difference of opinion to him. Having an open-minded discussion or debate will get you much farther than simply telling someone to shut up.

  2. TheGinger

    Unless its to comment on your FB and you delete it. Funny how censorship is okay if its you doing it.

  3. albamaria30

    She asked him to stop posting as a Steeler, verified by Twitter. I think her problem was that it makes the organization look bad. She never said he should keep his opinions to himself; she said he should get a personal account to tweet controversial or distasteful (in her opinon) things from.

    Ginny has been criticized for what she posts about and told, in so many words, to shut up or to write about other things. She has no interest in “censoring” people. Her protest was not that Mendenhall was speaking his mind. Such as it is. I really think you missed her point on this one.

  4. mindymin

    Im not sure we read the same post. Perhaps the turn of phrase “Delete Your Twitter Account” wasn’t meant literally? The post that I read definitely spoke more to his position as a Steeler & role model, like it or not, and his responsibility to think about that before tweeting things that could be construed as inappropriate – like his stance on mandatory oral sex, or his views on the rightness of judging a terrorist. Her point, as I read it, wasn’t “you are not allowed to think or say these things” and more “you shouldnt be saying these things on a verified twitter account tied to your job as a Pittsburgh Steeler – it embarrasses the whole organization”.

    Personally I watched that thing unfold and felt exactly as you do – he can say whatever he wants, free country, but her point was valid. I know that I couldn’t hop on my work Twitter feed and start waxing philosophic about politics and religion without consequences. It just isn’t appropriate, and for all intents and purposes that’s a work account.

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