Freedom of Speech
When I hear about some of the issues going on today in this nation with respect to the “separation of church and state” (and don’t get me started on how out of context that is often taken) it is beginning to remind me of CD release from back in the late ’80s or early ’90s by rapper Ice-T. The name of one of his albums was “Freedom of Speech: Just Watch What You Say.”
There are a couple of fairly widely reported incidents that address this. The first was the valedictorian who was not allowed to make mention of her faith while addressing fellow students. I’m unclear as to how this was a violation of the church/state thing. The speech was made by a student, not a representative of any government agency. She stated something that she believed. She encouraged, not coerced, them to examine the claims of Christ. Not even to blindly accept them, but to just take a look. Perhaps had she told them to use “The Secret” from the increasingly famous DVD and book, that would have been fine. As long as it wasn’t Jesus.
So, the question here is, where was this student’s right to free speech? And why is it okay to revoke this right from a person but only when what they’re saying might offend a couple people (and I’d be willing to bet that the number of offended people listening to the speech were in a very small minority). I know of no provision in the Constitution or any subsequent amendment which grants people the right to not be offended. In fact, the whole “Freedom of Religion” thing pretty much guarantees that someone is going to be offended.
The other news story that had caught my attention was the teachers who were actually brought to court because they were praying before their meal in the school cafeteria. Again, they were not preaching or proselytizing. They weren’t even talking to students or other faculty members about their faith. They simply were praying over their meal quietly. So, now what? Are we now not allowed to even observe our own faith in public (well, I guess you can if your Muslim or Jewish or Wiccan, etc. Just not if you’re a Christian).
I’ve heard many Christians talk about how secular society is trying to revoke or has revoked their rights to practice their own religion in any public place. Of course, secularists tend to argue that this is not true. And they are correct…technically. There is currrently no law which prohibits an individual from praying over their meal in public. Even if you work for a government agency, you are within your legal rights to take a Bible with you during your lunch break and study God’s Word.
However, although the teachers praying over their meal were within their legal rights, it didn’t prevent someone from making a legal case out of it. Yes, the teachers won the lawsuit. But how many lawsuits have been filed for similar types of things? In most cases, the Christians involved have been within their legal rights. But it didn’t protect them from having to go through a legal battle. A few short decades ago, it was unheard of that someone would have to defend their rights like this. They weren’t being attacked.
Although they win the legal battles when they did not violate any laws, the fact that they are under attack for their faith is my major concern. Just because secular society claims that these types of things are not illegal doesn’t mean that there is not already an agenda in progress to make it illegal. At the rate things are going, I wonder how long it will be that the name of Jesus Christ cannot be spoken in public at all.
Now, here’s where I have to admonish average Joe Christian out there. One thing that I am getting very tired of is people claiming that the United States was founded on Christian principles by Christian men. No, it wasn’t. The majority of the founding fathers were not Christians. They were deists. So many Christians will quote “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Sorry, folks. That’s not Christian theology.
That’s not to say that a Christian can’t agree with much or even all of that statement. After all, Christians believe that all men are created equal (or they should, anyway) as we were all created with the imago dei (image of God). As such, all life should be sacred and everyone should have the right to live. Liberty is another one that we shouldn’t have any issue with. That one is a double-edged sword, though. If it weren’t for liberty, there would have been no Fall.
The pursuit of happiness is a more tricky one. It depends on what a given person understands that to be. To one person, happiness could mean the house, 2.5 kids, a dog and a white picket fence. To someone else, it could be money and power at any cost. Obviously, provisions have had to be made in our laws to prohibit this kind of exploitation of others. But in the first scenario, provided that this isn’t achieved by such exploitation, there is nothing inherently wrong with it.
Just like there is nothing wrong with a Christian praying before his meal regardless of the fact that he happens to be in the cafeteria of a public school. Just like there is nothing wrong with an excelling student explaining to her fellow students the importance of her faith and how it informs her life and character. But, if we’re not careful, these rights will be taken away. They’re already under attack. Our protection, currently, is the law. It’s only a matter of time before those who attack Christianity like this start changing those laws in order to remove that protection. In fact, they are already trying to do that.
Grace, love and peace.