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.