The Cougar Chronicle

The strength of the First Amendment

Tyler Hudson, Opinion Writer

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In a time of divisive rhetoric and opposing viewpoints, we must remember to appreciate the First Amendment that allows us to express ourselves freely.

 

The First Amendment maintains a separation between government and religion, allows for people to protest against the government and protects our personal freedom of speech. At its core, the First Amendment enshrines every ideal that our country was founded on.

 

While there are several pieces of the American Constitution that protect our civil liberties, the first amendment affords more freedom and protection than any other. It encompasses the spirit that drove our Founders Fathers to create this great nation.

 

The First Amendment stands as a pillar of liberty in our country not simply because of the freedom it offers, but because it is infallibly neutral. The First Amendment will never favor a single group or establishment in this country.

 

Regardless of one’s personal viewpoints, the First Amendment will always protect your right to express that view.

 

However, tt is a common misconception  that the First Amendment exists as a “say whatever you want” card. It seems as though young people are often shocked to learn that their employer actually does have the right to restrict what they say.

 

Just as you have the right to say what you want, your boss has the right to ignore you. And since that boss has voluntarily employed you, he can voluntarily fire you.

 

In today’s ultrasensitive, hyper-politically correct culture, it is important now more than ever to preserve our right to express differing opinions without having to fear retaliation from our peers. We don’t have to agree with others’ perspectives, but we have to respect their right to say it.

 

We must constantly remind ourselves not to demonize our neighbors for maintaining personal beliefs that we don’t agree with. But we must also ask the question, do we continue to protect the freedom of speech when that speech becomes an expression of outright hatred?  

 

With very few exceptions, there are few restrictions on the expression of the individual. The United States remains one of the few countries on earth where individuals can say what they want without being persecuted by the federal government.   

 

There are other clear limits on free speech as well.

The Supreme Court has ruled that speech will not be protected if it would likely cause a violent reaction from an ordinary person. These types of speech, which the court has defined as “fighting words”, are not protected by the constitution.

 

Still, there must be a direct threat to an individual or show actual intent. This is the reason why a musician like Eminem is permitted to use homophobic language in his music. So long as he doesn’t threaten a specific person, he skirts the limitations of the constitution.

 

If this distinction sounds ambiguous, it’s because it is. The framers of the constitution knew that any attempt to limit free speech would always be arbitrary. Imagine how upset you would be if every song you downloaded was the edited version.

 

The holiday season is a time meant to reflect on our blessings and remind ourselves of what we’re thankful for. This year, let’s not forget how fortunate we are to live in a country protected by the First Amendment.    

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