Let’s save the First Amendment, Amigos.
“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.” Amendment 1. Constitution of the United States of America
As election season is upon us, I find myself thinking about my Christian responsibility to choose candidates on issues, not party or feigned faith. I always attend to the familiar moral and geopolitical issues of the sanctity of life, marriage, and treatment of the state of Israel. Those are very important. Over the last decade I have become increasingly concerned about a more fundamental issue: The preservation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Our constitution serves the important purpose of constraining the central government. The First Amendment is stated in exactly those terms: here is what the government cannot do. These restrictions cannot be overridden by acts of Congress, decisions of the courts, or executive decrees. In addition, though we frequently refer to ourselves as a democracy, that is not strictly true. We are a republic, governed by a constitution. That means that even a majority vote of the population cannot take away constitutional rights. This prevents the so-called “tyranny of the majority.” To alter the constitution, an amendment must be proposed by two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or by a convention called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures. Ratification of an amendment takes three-fourths (38) of the states to approve. It is an intentionally difficult process.
The First Amendment is under quite an attack. There have been some actual legislative efforts to curb speech and religious freedom (so-called “hate speech” comes to mind), but the biggest threats come from the courts and the anarchist/socialist mobs that infiltrate meetings and mau-mau the speakers. Under the banners of “social justice” and “hate-speech prevention”, we see college campuses becoming places where opinions opposed by the administration, the faculty, or the mob may not be expressed. In addition, many media outlets now intentionally avoid and/or refuse to carry specific ideas, particularly Christian ones.
With these things in mind, I encourage you to read the First Amendment, read the positions of candidates on free speech, and vote prayerfully with those things in mind. For example:
· “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
Notice that it doesn’t say “freedom of religion.” Some use that language to mean, “You can do whatever you like in your religious services, but don’t try to bring it outside the walls of the church.” The free exercise of my faith gives me the right to do what my faith requires of me, as long as I don’t materially injure someone else or abridge their rights. I can do these things in the public square, in my front yard, or in my free time at school or work. That is important when I choose to carry my Bible on campus, pray in a public building, put a Creche in my yard, or express an opinion that goes against societal orthodoxy. I also have the right to refuse to participate in the folly of others, even if their behaviors are legal, if that participation contradicts my faith. Vote for those who vow to protect the free exercise of religion.
· “or abridging the freedom of speech,”
All speech, especially political and religious speech, is protected. That includes any mention I choose to make about the Lord Jesus Christ. I can speak of Him in the grocery store, on the internet, or in the school. I can wear t-shirts and apply bumper stickers that name the Name. I have the right to declare my opposition to behaviors proscribed by Scripture, even if others are offended. I will do so whether it is protected or not, but our Constitution still promises that protection. Remember, faith comes by hearing. Vote for those who promise to protect our right to preach.
· “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
People who gather in mobs to scream at other folks in a restaurant are not protestors, they are assailants. There is no right to destroy other people’s property in protest of government policy. The moment you do, you have moved from peaceful protest to riot and revolution. When the assembly turns from peaceful to violent, it is a crime. Prosecute it. When the assembly begins to harass private citizens going about their lawful business, the participants are no longer petitioning government, they are committing the crime of civil harassment and menacing. Prosecute it. Vote for candidates who will enforce the law.
Somebody Said: To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. Frederick Douglass
Scripture Reading: “And now they’re at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, (Acts 4:29 MSG)
Pastor Virgil L. Stokes