It is well over 200 years since our founding fathers paved the pathway to freedom. America’s journey was and will continue to be long and problematic, yet we are still a free nation, a nation by the people for the people. And now, in the twenty-first century people are falling off the wagon of freedom and questioning the idea that we are free. A survey by the First Amendment Center in the US concluded that a majority of the people in America do not know or understand five of the most common freedoms we enjoy. I am sure Madison and Jefferson would roll over in their grave and cry if they were to hear this horrific information. I fear our freedoms can and will be taken if we do not know the information.
I plan on discussing, briefly, the study conducted by the First Amendment Center in the US, and after I want to dive into the five freedoms mentioned. After discussing our freedoms, I will close with a call for action; I want to challenge you to educate and arm yourself with the information, so we can continue living the freedoms we enjoy.
Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” I understand this to be true. The nationwide survey by the First Amendment Center in the US questions adults on attitudes and opinions about free expression, free press and religious liberty. The end results for their study are:
· 54 percent would continue IRS regulations that bar religious leaders from openly endorsing political candidates from the pulpit without endangering the tax-exempt status of their organizations.
· 66 percent say the government should be able to require television broadcasters to offer an equal allotment of time to conservative and liberal broadcasters; 62% would apply that same requirement to newspapers, which never have had content regulated by the government.
· 38 percent would permit government to require broadcasters to report a specified amount of “positive news” in return for licenses to operate.
· 31 percent would not permit musicians to sing songs with lyrics that others might find offensive.
· 68 percent favor government restrictions on campaign contributions by private companies, and 55 percent favor such limits on amounts individuals can contribute to someone else’s campaign.
Now stop reading for a minute and contemplate the previous bullet points. I want you to ask yourself if you can or currently agree with any one of the mentioned findings. If you found yourself agreeing with anyone of the previous bullet points, you need to go back and read the constitution and rediscover what it means to be free. Freedom is not the ability to regulate others; as Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote (to signify or suggest) freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.” In case you are overburdened with homework and other areas of life to recall and understand the basic freedoms, I will be covering them next.
Freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom to petition, freedom of religion and the freedom to assemble peacefully are the five basic freedoms given to all people willing to declare the United States of America their home. Moreover, it seems the basic freedoms are losing their true meaning.
Freedom of Speech is the underlying key to our great country. If we were only allowed one freedom it should be the freedom of speech, as to plea and speak of our need to have the other freedoms. In short, freedom of speech is the reason democracy and our nation can function. Please re-read the above mentioned bullet points and ask yourself, “Do any of these findings break or attempt to break our right to speak freely?” In censoring others, are we not opening the door to complete censorship?
Freedom of press is the right to obtain and publish opinions and information without government censorship or fear of punishment. It is the freedom to create and distribute a source of information to any and all that are willing to read and accept the information. It is my freedom to write this paper and tell you that your opinions and ideas are wrong (regardless of my ignorant claim). In the previous study and bullet print, listed above, it stated 66 percent of those interviewed want government restrictions on news casters to require an equal allotment of time for both conservative and liberal news. Does this sound like freedom?
Freedom of petition is a personal freedom that developed after the stamp act in 1765. The stamp act imposed a tax on any document used, even down to trading cards. The colonist felt this tax was absurd and proceeded to petition the king for a redress in this matter. However, the colonists would not succeed and the “no taxation without representation” was born. The freedom to petition a redress of grievances was considered our basic right, but the right was not met by the King of England; moreover, it was very much ignored. So it’s easy to see why our founding fathers made this a basic freedom. It is our right to change the way we are governed.
Freedom of religion is quite interesting. There is much to this freedom that is hidden without further research and questioning, as I found out. Our freedom to attend church is the tip of the iceberg. The freedom simply stated is, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his/her choice, and freedom either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his/her religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” The freedom allows us to enjoy the teachings of any person, group or culture.
Last but certainly not least is our freedom to assemble peacefully. This freedom is sometimes considered a lesser of the basic freedoms, yet are we able to practice the freedoms listed above without it? Felix Adler wrote, “Admitting the force of these contentions, nevertheless, the custom of meeting together in public assembly for the consideration of the most serious, the most exalted topics of human interest is too vitally precious to be lost.” I understand this to be true.
Much greater men than I wrote as to why we deserve the basic freedoms presenting in the constitution. I feel justified in allowing these men to speak: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…” These words are from the Declaration of Independence (as I am sure you already knew).
We practice these basic freedoms daily, and I am sure most of you are grateful to be covered under the constitution. Unfortunately, a percentage of Americans feel justified in taking these freedoms from others. I feel it’s our duty to know and understand our freedoms in every aspect, so we are able to fight those that are willing to take them from us. I urge you to know and understand these freedoms and continuously direct the path of the misguided back to the roots of our great constitution. Teach and preach the freedoms we enjoy. “Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower