"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
"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" Sound familiar? It should, it's the beginning of the Bill of Rights, the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which came about because James Madison and many of the founding fathers were concerned that the original Constitution did not adequately protect essential liberty. The United States is unique compared to most nations throughout history. Many governments have persecuted or punished citizens for speaking freely if what they say does not align with the ideas of those with influence. Many countries still do. In the United States, though, citizens have traditionally been encouraged to gripe about and question the government when they feel believe truth is not served. For 60-some years there has been increasing resistance to Christian ideals and celebrations. Something that would, I conclude, appall the Founders and most America-loving people of any generation. It has degraded so, that recent debates over hate speech have focused on or at least included Christian ideas and caused Americans to question just how committed the nation is to the First Amendment and free speech.
For many,( if not most, on college campuses,) Free Speech means freedom for the loudest to speak, but if your ideas are contrary to those, you must be silenced. There are even attempts to take the moral high ground based on contrary speech being “violence”! A rather preposterous and childish attempt to play victim, really, since one of the great advantages of discourse is to prevent violence. But for many, the cry that “words are violence” seems to be just a justification to perpetrate actual, physical (or high-volume verbal) violence on opponents. If you see this, you're not alone. A recent poll of American adults reveals that only 28 percent of us think Americans “have true freedom of speech today.
Those in favor of free speech are not alone—or silent. One of the nation’s premier First Amendment advocacy and legal groups fighting for free speech on the nation’s college campuses has expended its work into the culture as a whole. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), has, in its 23 years of activity on college compuses, “has won more than 500 direct advocacy victories on behalf of college students and faculty members (with thousands more behind-the-scenes resolutions). In addition, it has obtained 425 campus policy changes affecting five million students, helped pass free-speech legislation in 20 states, and helped to significantly reduce the prevalence of restrictive campus speech codes.” (6/13/22 article on Daily Citizen). Interestingly, one of FIRE's Board members is Ira Glasser, 22-year director of the (never Christian-friendly) ACLU (which apparently does not actually stand for Anti-Christian Lawyer's Union). Mr. Glasser joined FIRE saying “Once the ACLU backs off its traditional role, who else is there?”
They're not alone either. Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel recently won a Supreme Court case regarding the denial by the Boston's City Council for an organization (Camp Constitution) to fly a Christian flag at the City Hall Plaza as had nearly 300 organizations over 12 years. No other organization was ever denied permission to fly their choice of flag to promote their organization.
So, as Christians, why is free speech important? Well, speaking the truth in love is a biblical mandate (Eph 4:15). Therefore, any government law that guarantees citizens the right to speak the truth is in accordance with godly principles. Likewise, any law that infringes on a person’s right to speak truth (e.g. defining it as hate) opposes God’s command. Sure, freedom of speech doesn't mean that everyone tells the truth, but it allows it. Encourages it, even. So, speak truthfully, to build others up with our words, and use our mouths to praise and worship God (Eph 4:15, 29; 1 Chron 16:23–31). It also tells us to speak up for what is right. Queen Esther is a great example. If she speaks up, she may save the Jewish people. This requires going to the king and asking him to spare them even though he has not summoned her. She could've been demoted, banished or even killed for doing so, but her cousin Mordecai encouraged her by saying: "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)
God wants us to obey Him and to speak according to His Word. If obedience to that principle makes people hate us we are not to back down. God wants us to speak the truth boldly (Ephesians 6:20). Each of us has access to and influence with different people, and it looks like each of us has come here for such a time as this! Pastor Geoff These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Zechariah 8:16