Back in history, there was a line in every wedding ceremony that went something like this: “If anyone knows any reason these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
In more recent times, the sentence has been left out of the wedding ceremony. This column is not about the wording in a wedding ceremony, but it is about free speech rights. Over the years of our representative republic, we have become comfortable with freedom of speech. In fact, the first amendment to our United States Constitution assures that we have freedom of speech in our country. The concept of freedom of speech, in itself, has imposed limits. One of the limits to freedom of speech is the use of harmful, yet false warnings yelled in a public place. We do not have the right to shout “fire” in a crowded building when there is no fire. We are allowed, however, to express our views and opinions in public, by word of mouth, or by publishing them in a public forum.
I am a firm advocate for freedom of speech and a free press. Involved in those convictions is the belief that responsible, mature people will know when to speak their views and how to express their opinions without being forced to be censored. In our current cultural make up we have, it would seem, more opinions than people. The allowable venues open to express a viewpoint are many today. With the development of the Internet and social media sites the doors have been opened for an unlimited opportunity to express views, opinions and preferences on every possible subject known. The range and variety of places where viewpoints and opinions can be expressed are so large it is now upon each of us to be able to check the facts and make sure we are reading facts instead of someone’s fantasy in order to give credibility to their worldview. The challenge is great to determine what is true and what is false in the public forum today. Mere personal preference can be presented in such a way as to persuade people to a certain position without knowing all the facts. The busy lifestyles in which we all live each day limits the number of hours we have to invest in determining the truth or falsehood of what we read, hear or see.
With all of that being said, there is no reason to limit freedom of speech. While it is true that much of what I hear I do not believe, however, the person expressing their viewpoint has the freedom to express their opinions without being forced to remain silent. Just because I disagree or have a different worldview does not allow me to silence others with their worldview. From where I stand, we need to continue to be allowed freedom of speech in order to express our opinions, never being at the place of speaking or forever after being quiet.
Do you think there's any chance we could lose our right to freedom of speech in America? Tell us in comments.
Follow Ray Newman on Twitter — @RayNewmanSr.