Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Free Speech Zone

              A local radio talk show host has been using as one of his promos the line, “Free Speech Zone? Free Speech Zone? The whole country is a free speech zone!”

Even though the guy was stating the obvious, it begs the question: Why did he feel the need to make such a statement?

Allow me to offer some thoughts on this. The United States Constitution establishes for all Americans rights that are inherent to living in America. The Bill of Rights were written to insure that we the people would be guaranteed these rights in the eventuality that someone, or some entity, would come along and attempt to alter, restrict, or remove this right. The Constitution was officially ratified in 1787, but it was four years later that the Bill of Rights was ratified and attached to the Constitution. These rights were hewn out of the life experiences these Founding Fathers had already lived.

Once Christopher Columbus opened the way to the New World, those nations which were historically monarchies jumped on the bandwagon by expanding their reach and power around the world. The big dogs in this race for power and expansion were England, France, Spain and Portugal. There were others, but they were relatively minor, particularly in their influence in the Americas. Spain gobbled up almost all of South and Central America including a significant portion of the Western United States. France primarily grabbed Louisiana and the Mississippi River spreading out through what is “Fly-Over Country” in the U.S. today, plus a significant portion of Eastern Canada. Portugal was a lesser player, but they managed to snag a prized section of South America: Brazil, which is the largest country in South America encompassing the Amazon River.

Britain wound up being the top dog by having control of the Eastern U.S. and the majority of Canada. Here’s where the trouble began. The monarchy of an English king ruling over the colonies in the New World by fiat was increasingly onerous to the colonists. They were treated like second class citizens, and increasingly taxed without anyone acting as an advocate for them in the halls of the English Parliament. Thus the phrase many of us learned in school about our American History, “No Taxation Without Representation!”

But remember that the original colonists coming to America in 1607 was to escape religious persecution and manipulation. England had devolved into a single religion nation. If you did not openly embrace the Church of England, you were persecuted, intimidated and generally harassed by the monarchy and the Church. Church attendance was required. An itinerant English street preacher in the mid-1600s, John Bunyan, was arrested and imprisoned for many years for preaching the Gospel. Little wonder that the colonists penned the First Amendment as they did! No establishment of religion (i.e., a state run religion); and prohibiting the free exercise thereof (i.e., worship as your conscience dictates).

These pesky colonists in America were ignored in their attempts to gain the attention of the monarchy. The king and the Parliament were content as long as the supplies of tobacco and cotton kept coming into English ports. This growing discontent on the part of the colonists ultimately brought about a need to “Put up, or shut up.”

The American Revolution was inevitable due to the English royalty’s disregard for the plight of their charges in the Americas. It is often believed that all the colonists were in favor of revolution. This was not the case. It has been speculated that as much as 1/3 of the colonists were opposed to war with England. Mostly they were successful businessmen, tradesmen, and farmers who were still making a profit despite the increasingly oppressive taxation being levied against them. “Don’t upset the apple cart,” would have been their mantra. Leave well-enough alone. Or as we hear today, “You go along to get along.”

The reason I have taken the time to give you a thumbnail sketch of the historical events leading to our American Revolution is so that you can once again appreciate the reason the Founding Fathers made sure we the people would have rights available to us that were so blatantly ignored previously by high-brow elites in Europe. This is why the First Amendment is so crucial, and it sets the stage for the other rights drafted in that 1791 document.

“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 to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So, yes, the First Amendment is crucial to all our freedoms. Never surrender this right! America is a Free Speech Zone because of the Bill of Rights. And for that, you should thank God.

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