President-elect Barack Obama prioritizes passage of the freedom-stealing Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. High-level Democrats are also eager to limit free speech in media with the Fairness Doctrine. Earlier liberals, especially during the 60s and 70s, championed unbridled freedom of speech and expression. But Obama and “new liberals” encourage the opposite: hate and bias laws which restrict and even criminalize criticism of federally protected groups such as Jews and homosexuals. (1)
Should there be limits on freedom of speech? Or do the ethical foundations of America, the Bible and the Constitution allow us to say virtually anything we want?
To answer these and other questions about this now controversial subject, we must define “free speech.”
What is Free Speech?
Our right to free speech comes from our identity as free will beings, created in God’s image. Freedom to make moral choices is given every person at conception and is part of the eternal soul or spirit of man. The first instinct of our free will is to speak our desires and opinions. Speech naturally proceeds from the innermost thoughts of our minds and souls. Natural law also argues for freedom of speech. If animals can bark, sing, chirp at their pleasure and without restraint, shouldn’t human beings made in God’s image have at least as much right to speak? Our free speech, like our free will, is our most precious birthright from our Creator.
Yet this freedom must not be abused. In the Old Testament, God did command execution for those who abused their freedom of speech through blasphemy, advocating idolatry, or inciting rebellion. Yet He gave each person the freedom to commit those sins, if they chose.
God has authority to end verbal discord to Himself and His law whenever He pleases. He would not be God if He didn’t have that privilege. He is not required to bear with sin for any length of time, and the eternal law of a holy God is that any discord to Him must be instantly annihilated. Yet He doesn’t incinerate all sinners; even demons are given freedom to continue. God forbears, in love, to give mankind time to repent and become His friends.
In fact, God does much more than just forbear judgment. Jesus came down and died on a cross to bear our just punishment. When we trust in Christ, our Sin-bearer, He becomes our bridge of justification and reconciliation to a holy God.
When Speech Should Not Be Free
Just as there were some limits to freedom of speech for the Hebrews, so American law sets some limits. No one is allowed to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater or to incite riot, or to libel or slander. American law does not tolerate speech that threatens public safety with “imminent harm,” and I believe speech that is blatantly corruptive should also be restricted. Scripture provides precedent for such limits, especially in the Old Testament. Young people should be legally protected from expression that is overtly pornographic, solicitous of pedophilia, sexually traumatizing or sadistically violent.
But we should not prohibit speech that is merely politically incorrect. This includes what the Anti-Defamation League decries as “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” ADL counsels libraries and schools to block such “hate speech” from computers. (This has included the National Prayer Network’s website, <http://www.ruthtellers.org/>Truthtellers.org.) In reality, politically incorrect ideas are often true. They bear no resemblance to speech that actually traumatizes, degrades and corrupts youth.
Despite potential abuses, free speech is a much more redeeming influence than a threat. In the area of expression, we should always err on the side of freedom rather than restriction. The greatest blessing of freedom of speech is that it allows new and truthful ideas that can strengthen and morally orient the confused or misled. Is our problem today too much unbridled, unauthorized speech and discussion? Hardly. Our problem is highly concentrated power in mass media, which shuts down true discussion and non-mainstream voices. The dissenting voices that do exist are threatened by fierce efforts, primarily led by ADL, to restrict freedom with hate, bias and speech laws. ADL ceaselessly searches for a way to outlaw criticism of matters Jewish as well as homosexuality on the internet. We need much, much more total truth-telling, not less.
Big Brother Obama
Media already portrays Obama as another Martin Luther King Jr. with a dream of freedom for all. Don’t believe it. Obama’s new brand of liberalism stands for ending freedom of speech for critics of federally protected groups. Obama will attempt to pass the federal hate bill and pro-homosexual ENDA as well as “lobby reform” bills meant to cripple and penalize Christian/conservative and pro-life activist groups. He will almost certainly allow Democrats to also pass the freedom-stealing Fairness Doctrine that will run conservative media off the airwaves.
Obama wants to sweep America into hate law bondage as in Canada. Last year, a prominent Canadian hate law bureaucrat commented that Canada tolerates free speech but is not in love with it. Freedom-loving Americans must fall even more deeply in love with God and His priceless gift of free speech!
We must also act. With the Senate and House now overwhelmingly empowered to pass Orwellian legislation, lovers of freedom must be ready to protest as never before. Calls must flood the House of Representatives just as soon as the new hate bill arrives there, probably in early January.
Are the odds against freedom now insurmountable? Again and again they seemed that way over the past nine years when hate bill forces always commanded a numerical majority in Congress. But God repeatedly intervened, creating disarray in the hate bill ranks and defeating it five times.
Can we do it again? Yes! Exactly the same way we succeeded earlier.
Call first to God. Then call Washington!