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Tammy Messina: Time to exercise those rights

Posted: April 25, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 25, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

“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.” ~ U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1.

Ratified in 1791, this foundational law has been in effect for 222 years. And after 222 years, we are still able to petition our government, peaceably assemble, and have seen no evidence of Congress attempting to establish a religion (thank God!) It’s the other two pieces of that amendment for which I’m starting to be concerned.

Do we truly still have the right to unabridged free speech? Not when that free speech crosses the line and is a serious threat to cause harm. But what about hate speech? The term is often used so loosely, it seems to be losing its impact, much like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. But the First Amendment does not prohibit us from “hating” someone else.

Then there is that little matter of “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. It goes hand-in-hand with the “unabridged free speech” clause. Without the ability to speak freely, the free exercise of one’s religion becomes difficult.

For those of you who say you do not believe in or have a “religion,” take a look at Merriam-Webster’s definition: “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” Even if you don’t believe in a diety, that is your own personal “religious attitudes, beliefs.” By that definition, we all have a religion to exercise, even if it’s not believing in a god.

Most would say that we still have the right to freely exercise our own person religion. Some may “hate” us for it or exercise their own free speech against our religion. But that’s their free speech. Taking theirs away would subject ours to be taken away too. Once one person’s right to free speech is lost, the house of cards starts to tumble, and we all stand to lose.

If someone in Congress today proposed that we do away with either free speech or religious freedom, the uproar would be deafening. There’s no way we would allow that. But these rights have been infringed upon little-by-little over the years without much resistance. We’re losing them inch by inch.

The politically correct (PC) police have been extremely effective at dictating what is and is not acceptable to say in public. They are quick to attack, point out any offense, and brand someone a “hater.” Its effect squelches free speech.

Encroachments on religious freedoms are just as frequent with the ACLU and Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) slapping lawsuits on anything that smells like a public display of religion.
School children are told they cannot speak or write about God in public schools. Military service members cannot mention Jesus. Historic monuments with religious symbols are forced to be removed. Artistic businesses and religious organizations are required to offer services that violate their personal religious beliefs. The alternative?

Close the business. That isn’t freedom.

We have the right to publically display religious symbols (even on public property), open government meetings in prayer (as long as Congress isn’t establishing a religion for us), assemble and pray (or not pray) in public places, and speak about our love for whatever God we believe in, regardless of how many people tell us that we can’t.

Religious freedom is for all of us. If you treasure that freedom, you need to fight for it, not just for whatever religion it is you believe in, but for every other person’s religion as well. Once one person’s beliefs have been trampled, everyone else’s is fair game too.

You can show your support for the First Amendment, the free exercise of religion, and the president by participating in events like the 10th Annual SCV Mayors Prayer Breakfast next Thursday, May 1st on the National Day of Prayer. Each year since 1952 the president has signed a proclamation asking people to turn to God in prayer and meditation for our nation’s leaders. President Obama during this year’s National Prayer Breakfast said,

“I want to ask you for your prayers as I continue in this awesome privilege and responsibility as President of the United States.” Next Thursday we’ll do just that Mr. President, as well as pray for all our elected officials, first responders, and others.

If you don’t use it, you may lose it. Exercise those First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech, and support others doing the same. It’s your Constitutional right and privilege.

Tammy Messina is a resident of Santa Clarita, a local business owner and a producer for “The Real Side Radio Show.”

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