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Slipping Away



Much has been written and said in the past number of years about the First Amendment which guarantees the American people the right to free speech.  It is a most precious freedom that we possess which is suppose to give us the right to express ourselves in a free society without the fear of retribution from the government and other forces.  Everyone is aware of the fact that one should govern what they say because, while we are free to say it, there are consequences.  We are free to threaten someone, even the President, but there are consequences for doing so.  We are free to say things, even hurtful things to a person but there are consequences which follow as people form certain opinions about us and possibly even ostracize us.

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Certainly, one should conduct themselves within the bounds of proper decorum as they speak or act so that their statements and actions will be properly understood.  Even though one might not agree with what is stated, they would have the propensity to understand it within the context of the statement.  So, while offended, they would respect the other’s right to state his position or opinion.  The First Amendment will survive only as long as it is evaluated according to the intent of the Constitution.  However, if one’s right to speak is subjected to the all pervasive politically correct environment which is now the ruling standard, it will cease to have value even though it is still in the Constitution and “on the books.”  It will become useless; a relic of a bygone era.  This writer is afraid that this situation is in the process of taking place. 

One does not have to remove the First Amendment from the Constitution to negate it.  All they have to do is create an environment in which it is politically incorrect to exercise the freedom of speech.  With certain parameters set on what is unacceptable…and those parameters are expanding every day, one may have the freedom of speech but they dare not say anything which offends that which is politically correct.  The worst thing that one can do to a person in today’s politically correct world is to offend them.  Truth often offends, but it is still truth.  Today, truth is to be rejected especially if it offends.  As long as “feelings” are the standard by which our First Amendment rights are evaluated, then that precious freedom has been neutered.  For heaven’s sake, don’t tell anyone the truth!  Political correctness has trumped truth and our First Amendment rights in today’s world.  One can claim the right of free speech all they want to but if they cannot practice it in all cases then it is of limited value at best.  In order to satisfy the radical Politically Correct people, everyone would have to think the same way or risk retribution for expressing their opinion.  Those who are striving for a utopian world where no one is offended and where we all feel the same way about an issue need to come to the reality that it is never going to happen.

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A good example of how the shift is taking place is to be found in the situation with the phrase, “the separation of church and state.”  That statement appears no where in any of our official documents but it is applied in today’s legal world with great authority.  The concept of “the separation of church and state” has been codified into our laws and legal system by court cases and by judges.  Over the years it has become part of the legal system even though the case for doing this has no foundation in our documents.  But, even our populace now believes that it is part of our system from the beginning.  It has been codified by the courts and other rulings.  If one tried to do away with that legal interpretation today, they would be maligned as an un-American radical.  The same thing is happening with the freedom of speech.  A difference of opinion is now being codified as a criminal offense.  And, it must be noted that such changes always go in a more liberal and destructive direction. 

Our freedom of speech, First Amendment Rights are being eroded away very rapidly in an almost imperceptive way.  The general public pays so little attention that they are oblivious to what is happening.  One cannot expect to go unchallenged if they express a different opinion especially where moral, political or religious things are at issue.  If one’s opinion stems from what is Biblical or from what has been the long accepted moral codes of society, then they are stigmatized as “phobic” in some way and certainly do not deserve to be heard.  Further, If one is speaking against the immoral drift of society under very liberal, yes, even pagan Godless reasoning, then they are attacked as unreasonable and oppressive.  As previously stated, the worse thing one can do to someone else in today’s PC world is to tell them they are wrong especially if it deals with an aberrant lifestyle.  Those committing such things have the right to flaunt their destructive lifestyle but those who are seeking to preserve society must not say a word or they will be sued or ostracized.  The freedom of speech is Slipping Away.  A difference of opinion is being codified as hate speech which surely has no place in a progressive society.  So, just as the concept of separation of church and state is now codified and part of our legal thinking, the freedom to express a different opinion is being taken away and it is being codified as an illegal activity.  We are reaching a point where everyone will have to think alike and hold the same opinions or else they will be held accountable for “hate” activity.  Shades of George Orwell.

At the present rate of decay, in the not too distant future, people will not be able to express a difference of opinion without risking legal repercussions and societal stigmatism.  In fact, that day is already upon us.  Of course, we should all be aware of the feelings and rights of others, but we should not have to be afraid of expressing our opinions because we fear that we might hurt their feelings and in doing so, be guilty of a legal offense. God forbid that a person says anything that can be interpreted as racist even though no racist motivations are involved.  The problem here is that the playing field is not even at all.  When we reach the point that not liking Mexican food is considered racist, then someone is “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel” in order to play the race card.  People in today’s world are having to parse everything they say so that the PC police can’t make something from nothing and prosecute or ostracize them. 

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Our First Amendment rights are still in our documents but they are being destroyed because feelings trump reality and because the PC world is being successful at redefining that basic freedom.  In the future our Constitutionally guaranteed rights will exist on paper only unless we take the necessary steps to keep them from Slipping Away.

The troubling thing about all of this is the way in which the public seems to be willing to accept the fact that free speech is no longer a necessity for our society.  They are being pushed along mindlessly without even thinking about the danger of losing the freedom of speech.  In fact, they don’t even know they are losing it.  The PC verbiage makes it sound very reasonable that people should be willing to give up that precious freedom in order not to be offensive.  And, that which is considered offensive is a relative thing.  What is offensive to one is not to another.  In fact, that which is considered offensive today would not have been a “blip” on the radar screen only a few years ago.  So, those with an agenda will look for something to be offended about in order to make a point and advance their cause.  With a weakened concept of freedom of speech, one is put in the position of always having to evaluate what they say based on who they are talking to.  The issue of not liking Mexican food is a good example of the situation.

This is a very destructive place in which we find ourselves.  Needless to say, unless our Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech is protected and cherished, we will find that it is in the process of slowly Slipping Away.

Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 48 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 30 of those years. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com

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