Category Archives: First Amendment

What’s In a Name?

Homophobe, Islamaphobe, intolerant, racist, bigot, woman-hater, backward, ignorant, redneck, cracker. If you are a white, Christian, Conservative, you have probably been called at least one of those words, or something worse. Here’s a word for those who are quick to throw out the aforementioned terms, hypocrite.

I don’t know about you, but I am getting weary with being told what I think and how I feel from people who have no idea who I am or what I stand for.  People who are content to be told by the entertainment industry what to think, not how to think.   People who are too quick to believe what they are told, by a media more concerned with pushing a social agenda, than seeking the truth.

I watch everyday, on the news, on the web, and I am astonished that people blame racism, and bigotry in all its forms when they are faced with the consequences of their behaviors.  Common sense and civility have been driven from the public square, and I shake my head and wonder, at what point did the Bill of Rights, specifically the First Amendment, become so twisted and perverted that it is now the instrument by which I am stripped of the very rights it was meant to preserve?

Conservatism has always been about protecting the rights of the individual.  Every individual, no matter what your personal philosophy.  In spite of the picture painted of us, Conservatism is about compassion and compromise, within a framework of self-determination and personal responsibility.  It is clear now however, that the Progressive movement, in spite of the narrative pushed for it, is not about compromise, it is about control.

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Modern Day Minutemen?

“We stand for freedom, for our rights, for social independence, for democracy, for freedom of speech, for everything, for a normal life,” she told The Associated Press from her hospital bed in Kiev. Excerpt from interview with Olesya Zhukovska

The words of this young woman, an ordinary Ukrainian citizen, a paramedic, should strike a chord with every American.  They should give us pause, to stop and think about how precious these rights are.  Right now in the Ukraine everyday people, most of them young, and middle class, are willing to die for them.  I’ve listened to and read the  interviews of these courageous people.  I am amazed, and shamed by them.  Amazed at their bravery and tenacity, shamed that they are willing to die for what we take for granted.

Sadly, we don’t just take these rights, rights protected by the Constitution, for granted, we are actually begging for them to be taken away.  We ask the federal government to take away our sovereign right to bear arms.  We look the other way when the FCC wants to monitor our newsrooms.  We allow the IRS, a bureaucracy created to impose taxes on us, to dictate our health care.  Is there any logic to that? We are happy to trade our personal freedom for a life free from worry or want. Let the government take care of us, just so long as we do not have to assume responsibility for our own lives.  We willingly elect to office men and women more interested in increasing their own power and pocketbooks than meeting the needs of their constituencies.  If we go to the polls at all, we choose candidates whose names we recognize, who are the best looking, the person our mother told us to vote for, or someone promising more free stuff.  We are gullible and believe pretty speeches.  We don’t expect our press to thoroughly vet our candidates and we don’t demand excellence from our leaders.  We settle for men and women of lesser integrity lest we have to look too deeply at ourselves.

Meanwhile, half a world away there are those who are prepared to die for what we are happily throwing away.   The very rights that generations of our own young men (and women, too) have fought and died to preserve.  The rights that our Founders painstakingly preserved in our Constitution, that we might be a shining example of what a nation can become when its people are free.  The kind of nation that the Ukrainian protesters are trying to create for themselves.

Yes, we should be ashamed

On my way to Chic Fil A

Crowd at my local Chic Fil A

Today in stock yards all across the nation, the cattle enjoyed a one day stay of execution. That’s because there was little demand for beef as people crowded into their local Chic Fil A to show their support of Dan Cathy’s First Amendment rights. It was a thirty minute wait for those wonderful waffle fries and peach milkshakes. As my son and I stood in line, I was amazed by what I saw. The line reached around to the back of the building. The drive through line all the way though the parking lot, down the driveway and out to the highway. There were even cops directing the traffic. We had to park a lot away. People even showed up in a church bus.

They even came by bus.

The mood was neighborly, friendly and festive. What was even more impressive was what I didn’t see. There were no honking horns and hand gestures. No cutting in line. No bored indifferent employees. There were so many “thank you’s” and “pardon me’s” you would’ve thought it was a finishing school exam. Even those who may have disagreed with Dan Cathy’s position showed an enormous amount of class by not showing up to protest.  I left with the impression that these people get it.  This wasn’t a gay marriage thing, it wasn’t even a Christian thing.  It was a Constitutional thing.  When the government, be it local, state, or national, tries to silence the opinions of decent, moral, hardworking folks, we just can’t take that lying down.  They didn’t during the Boston Tea Party, they didn’t on July 4th, 1776, and we didn’t on Aug 1st 2012.

Lest We Forget

Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom Isn’t Free (Photo credit: swanksalot)

(Parts of this are reposted from an earlier post entitled “No Guts No Glory”.)

This Monday we will see billboards, bumper stickers, and car magnets all proclaiming “Support our Troops“, and “Freedom Isn’t Free”. Are these truly heart-felt words, displayed by proud patriots or are they meaningless platitudes, mindlessly quoted by pandering politicians?  On this day there will be countless memorial services and tributes.  But will we stop a moment and reflect on what this day really means or is it simply the beginning of summer?  Just a day to have a picnic or barbecue.

I remember as a child hearing the stories of my mother, who, as a toddler underwent surgery on her foot. For years afterward she required special orthotic shoes that had to be replaced every time her foot grew. This was during WWII and rationing was in full force. Everyone was allowed only one pair of shoes a year. Including my mother. The government didn’t make a special exception because she was a child with a medical condition. Her parents didn’t demand that she was entitled to more ration coupons because of a unique hardship. Instead they gave up their ration coupons to get her the shoes she needed and when those ran out other family members, friends and neighbors donated theirs. Why was this necessary? Because the materials that were used to make shoes over here were needed to make shoes for the troops over there. Could you imagine giving up coffee, sugar, shoes and tires and sending them to the troops in Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq?  Could we ever again unite as a whole country behind an effort to rid our world of an unspeakable evil? Do we even know what evil is anymore?

The invention of photography as allowed us to see the horrors of war up close and personal.  The flag draped coffins of our loved ones, the bloody, mangled bodies of our enemies, the atrocities. Faced with the horrifying reality that the price of freedom is blood, many of us have decided that the price is too high. We believe that the act of war, rather than the  megalomaniacal ideals of ruthless men is the true evil and that nothing save our own personal survival is worth fighting and dying for.

The men who marched at Lexington and Concord, whose bodies covered the ground at Gettysburg, who raised the flag at Mount Suribachi, all understood the power of the words of our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution.  That such a radical ideal as individual freedom, that men should control their own destinies, requires a collective sacrifice.

By looking to the government for our prosperity rather that demanding that our elected officials recognize the freedom to build that prosperity ourselves, by allowing the government the rights to our personal property, and by allowing the government to usurp and mismanaged our wages though an unnecessarily complicated tax code, we dishonor those who have fought and died to maintain those freedoms.

By allowing our schools to indoctrinate our children with the mantra that it is the government’s job to take care of us, to protect us from our own ignorance and folly, and that “from each according to his ability and to each according to his need” is the highest morality, we dishonor those who fought and died for our right to think for ourselves.

Our Forefathers wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, not to give us certain rights, but to preserve them.  The government does not grant us our freedoms, rather we “the people” grant the government its right to exist.  It’s time for us to “take back” our government and hold our elected officials accountable, for what they do with the money, property, time and power we “the people” give them.

In every election we have the opportunity to show that we truly understand the cost of our freedom and that it is precious.  By taking the time  and making the effort to  research and vote for people truly worthy to serve us, and by reminding them regularly that they do, is how we prove that those who made the “ultimate sacrifice” did not do so in vain.

Putting Prayer Back in Public Schools

On Thursday, March 1st, the Florida State legislature passed SB, 98 www.flsenate.gov /Session/Bill/2012/0098/BillText/Filed/PDFwhich gives individual school districts the freedom to allow student led “inspirational messages” during mandatory assemblies and other school sponsored events. The bill was sponsored by a Democrat,

Florida State Capitol

Image via Wikipedia

State Senator Gary Siplin, and was overwhelmingly passed with bi-partisan support.  A fact that might surprise many conservatives and Evangelicals.  The bill now awaits the probable signing from Governor Rick Scott.  Other states are taking notice and waiting to see how this law will play out in the practical application of public school policy.

As a Christian and a mother, I should be elated about this.  Over the past few decades we have seen the First Amendment being twisted and perverted into an instrument to deny Christians the right to freely practice our beliefs in public. Activities that are actually a positive influence on campus such as the annual See You At The Pole or groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes are routinely banned from school property even though these activities are completely voluntary and take place outside of regular class hours.  Teachers are forbidden to acknowledge their Christian beliefs on their school website bios and are reprimanded for publicly expressing their beliefs even when they are outside of the school setting. This is wrong and is in opposition to the true intent of the First Amendment.

This bill, however, is a bad idea.  The bill’s only strongpoint is that it puts the authority for implementation in the hands of the individual school boards.  This is right because the boards are better able to determine the needs and beliefs of their communities better than the state government can.  The bill seeks to protect the schools from First Amendment litigation by giving the responsibility for choosing, who delivers the message and its content, to the discretion of the students.  School officials and employees are forbidden to interfere in any way with the students’ decisions. There is absolutely no way a school board can define what constitutes an “inspirational message” without violating the rights of one group or another. These messages could be anything from a prayer or devotional to an anarchist rant, or hate group rhetoric. Any student who has an ax to grind or just simply enjoys stirring up trouble will now have a platform.  Time and precious school resources would be wasted on the litigation that is sure to ensue if any school board tries to implement rules to curb the chaos.

The school system in Florida has many challenges.  Fixing a broken system of accountability is one. Though it is a well-intentioned attempt at restoring morality in the school system, this law will not work.  The only way to improve the quality of education in Florida or anywhere else in this country is to remind the schools that their purpose is to serve their students, parents and taxpayer supporters, not the other way around.  The only way to accomplish  what this bill is trying to do, is to implement school choice.

A Peaceful? Protest

A "First Amendment Area" at Muir Woo...

Image via Wikipedia

Now that Time Magazine has made The Protester “The Person of the Year”, I have been giving a lot of thought to the First Amendment Rights to peaceable assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. We hear a lot about our constitutional rights, what we don’t hear a lot about is our responsibilities in exercising those rights.
There are many ways to petition our government officials. We can write or email them. We can gather signatures on a petition. We can call them and we can vote. We can even gather in large numbers in a show of unity to call attention to an issue. That is what is meant by the right to peaceably assemble.
A peaceful assembly respects the rights of those not participating to go about their daily lives and does not try to impede them by blocking streets, sidewalks, or the entrances to buildings. A peaceful assembly does not destroy public or private property. People do not commit crimes against one another during a peaceful assembly. A peaceful assembly respects the rules of usage for public parks and open spaces. A peaceful assembly respects the rights of others to use public parks and open spaces and does not occupy them for an unreasonable amount of time.
When the purpose of a gathering is to call attention to its cause by being willfully disruptive or destructive, when it causes an inconvenience to those not participating by obstructing their access to places were they have a right to be, then the gathering is no longer a peaceful assembly. It is an act of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is an unlawful act and is not protected under the constitution.
To understand the difference between the two acts we need to understand why we have this right.
The Constitution was written by men who had a healthy mistrust of government. They wanted to limit the government’s intrusion into our daily lives. The First Amendment spells out some specific rights that allow us to maintain control of the government and the individuals elected to serve us. Not all countries enjoy this kind of freedom. In places such as China, and Middle Eastern theocracies, the people have no other choice but to engage in civil disobedience in order to confront the injustices their governments force them to endure. But because our constitution gives us lawful and civilized ways to keep our government accountable to us, an act of civil disobedience is not only unnecessary it is counter productive.
When a gathering becomes a disruptive nuisance to a community there will inevitable be someone who seeks to remedy the situation and prevent future problems by suggesting regulation. It seems reasonable enough, lets protect the public by restricting, how many may gather for a rally, where they can gather, how long they can gather. Before long political correctness takes over and along with protecting public safety, the government decides that it should protect us from being “offended” as well. Now along with the restrictions already in place comes a restriction on who can gather. Now you have to submit your agenda to code compliance to make sure it does not encourage disruptive behavior. See how this goes?
We all have a right to have our grievances heard, but we should also be good neighbors and citizens. The First Amendment was not meant to allow an “anything goes” approach to addressing our concerns. When we abuse our rights, we set in motion the means to erode them.

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