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May 22, 2014

Freedom of Speech

Patricia A. Kelly

Along with freedom of religion, the freedom to pursue happiness, life, and liberty, freedom of speech is a fundamental human right in America. It appears, however, that this right has been usurped by the requirement for political correctness in American life.


Recently, the CEO of Mozilla lost his job because he donated personally and privately, in 2008, to a California group working to promote the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In that same year, President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton both agreed with that definition. They were savvy enough to change their minds before 2014, though, so they survived unscathed.


Recently the family who owns the Chick Fil A Restaurant chain promised to take a new look at donations made by their charitable foundation. The reason for this is that representatives of northeastern American cities have been working to prevent their expansion into their territories.


It seems that, although charitable donations have been altered, the company is still allowed to close its restaurants on Sundays. Wonder how long they’ll get away with that. Just imagine the nerve of them, standing for marriage between a man and a woman, and for Christian values. Such audacity, indeed.


Recently circulating on my Facebook page was a photo of President Lyndon Johnson with his infamous quote, made after his passage of civil rights legislation: “I’ll have them [N’s] voting Democrat for the next hundred years.” One could get away then with making a completely disrespectful and inappropriate statement, and he didn’t say it in public.


Paula Dean is just beginning the re-building of her reputation and business after admitting that she said the “N” word some decades ago.  She admitted it, took her hit, and is on the way back.


We don’t yet know any long term consequences for Cliven Bundy or Donald Sterling after their recent very ill-thought-out comments. Definitely worth noting, however, is the private nature of Mr. Sterling’s remarks.


It’s one thing for a “private club” such as the National Basketball Association to suddenly exclude an owner for behavior that it finds unbecoming, even if the owner has been behaving unbecomingly for decades. It’s another for the entire Caucasian world to start panting in fear and suggesting that they are nothing like him.


This year former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and International Monetary Fund President Christine Legarde, along with University of California Berkeley Chancellor Robert Bergeneau cancelled plans to give commencement speeches after protests about their professional lives.


Worse yet, Brandeis University cancelled an invitation to the renowned women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak at commencement and to receive an honorary degree. Ms. Ali, who created a documentary film depicting abuse of women in some Islamic societies, had her invitation cancelled after protests regarding her criticism of Islam.


This apparent trend is not good. Certainly at the university level, diversity of thought should be applauded rather than censored.


People following their convictions without violating the rights of others should not, in our society, be censored after acting upon their principles. If one wishes to demonstrate disapproval, one could simply not patronize their business rather than forcing them to either recant or leave town.


As for those whose comments may be repugnant to the majority of people in our society, freedom of speech allows room for some stupidity, a price that’s well worth paying.


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