Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sorry If I Offend You

There is no right in the United States Constitution to be free from being offended by what someone says. Quite the opposite really. Our 1st Amendment grants freedom of speech which means that I or anyone am allowed to express ourselves in public in accordance with our personal beliefs. For example, I can claim publicly that my religion is the only true religion and that all others are false and urge people in the strongest terms to believe as I do. That may not be the best way to spread my religion, but that is another discussion. What is provided is the freedom from coercion, force or threat to constrain religious belief. Government rules and regulations cannot be made that would force membership or adherence to specific churches or religions.

Why bring this up? There is a community Internet forum that I participate in, the Winchendon Backyard Fence, where some people don't like to hear others talk about their belief. An acquaintance of mine on the forum is very outspoken in her Christian belief. Some people don't like to hear her say that Christ is the only way to salvation and those who do not believe in Jesus are wrong. They appear to adhere to the current form of humanistic pantheism where it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you do so sincerely and don't claim exclusiveness for your views. What they don't realize is that this view is a form of religion in and of itself. They have a right to preach it, just like Christians do, but they do not have the right to restrict the speech of those who disagree. They preach tolerance, but in reality it is only tolerance for those who believe as they do. I fear that the rising tide of this (in)tolerance is a greater long-term danger to the fabric of our country than many other concerns.

What can you as an individual do? Start by exercising your right to speak your piece boldly and refuse to be quiet when shushed. Then support others in their exercise of this right even if you find their message offensive. Walk it, talk it.

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