Tuesday, March 15, 2011

$Free Speech$

"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."

Read the above words carefully and after you reread them, give them a minute to let them soak in. This one run-on sentence is the First Amendment in all of its glory. This one sentence protects every American's right to say whatever is on their mind to say, but sometimes, there are certain misconceptions that come in interpreting this sentence.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The simple fact is that while I am a practicing Christian, I shouldn't have to worry about a Catholic, a Muslim, or even an atheist imposing on my right to practice my beliefs at my church, I must also show the same tolerance to a person of another religion as well. Free speech and tolerance are two way streets and are not meant just for the "popular" or for the "most easily tolerated".

"...the right of the people to peaceably assemble." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said that, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." We all have the freedom of speech, but we are also all bound to peaceably use that freedom of speech. You and I are safe to say whatever we please unless a war of words becomes a physical war.

There's one final detail, but this is the most important one...everyone's speech is free, but there is a cost for us to use that freedom. While we are justified under the laws of the government to speak our minds, the words that come out of our mouths all come with a consequence or a reward. When you tell your boss how you really feel about them, you can either get a raise or you can get fired. Whether you tell your significant other the truth or lies, what happens to your relationship is a direct result of your "free" speech.

The bottom line is that it's always easier to censor yourself instead of having to apologize for your words after the fact. Keep this in mind while you're exercising your "free" speech.

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