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Voices of Trinity: Constitution Day IV

 
 

constitution

Continuing to receive amazing comments from members of the Trinity community on issues of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion as part of our observance of Constitution Day…

From Ana Schwartz:

“I do not believe that freedom of speech has gone too far.  I believe that people should be allowed to say whatever is it that they want to say.  We as people of the United States of America feel that it is important to have freedom of speech.   I believe that it makes our country stronger because we have such freedom to do so.  Although some of the things that people may say may be very well be hurtful they have the right to say those things.  I don’t think that you will gain many followers saying hurtful things but never the less you have the right to do so.”

From Nydria Humphries, Graduate Student:

“It is our duty as Americans to educate ourselves about the laws that govern this country. If the government is not doing enough to protect everyone’s rights, then the people should speak up. I think the controversy over the preacher burning the Quran was blown out of control. What puzzled me, is how the information traveled all of the way to General Petraeus? People have been burning books and flags for years, so why does it matter now? As far as chilling out is concerned, the preacher (the people) do have a rights. However, America does not need anymore reasons for Al-Queda to strike. It’s a shame that people mix Islam with Al-Queda. Most Muslims are not violent people.”

From Jill Ross, SPS:

“No, I do not believe freedom of speech has gone too far. Fundamentally, Americans celebrate the idea that one is able to express his/her own views freely, without fear. It is important we remain free to express ourselves even when our opinions are less popular. Some views may provoke violence but those views often also provoke discussion and thought. Threatening to burn the Koran is not something that gets my attention as I do not agree with such an act. But I respect the fact that some people feel that would bring them some level of satisfaction.   The fact that some people feel free to be outrageous not only shows the strength of our freedom but simply that there are always extremist views. While outrageous views may not be popular, that does not mean they should not be expressed. Frankly speaking, I don’t have to agree with you to be able to hear your ideas and see issues from your perspective.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say Freedom of Religion is in danger but ‘tolerance’ is definitely sliding down the slippery slope. The United States has always been a predominantly Christian culture while accepting other religious beliefs and practices as well. Since the attacks of 9/11, popular American sentiment toward people of the Muslim faith has grown to a view of Muslims as anti-American or terrorists. Of course, is very easy to judge an entire group of people (or faith in this case) negatively based on the actions a a few. What is upsetting to me is that this kind of judgment is becoming so widely accepted. What Americans must remember is that as long as one group, be it religious, racial, sexual orientation etc, is prejudged and discriminated against, we are closer to becoming a culture of bondage instead one of freedom.”

From Mason Davenport, Enrollment Services:

“There is a difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. Freedom of speech is what Glen Beck was exercising on the Lincoln Memorial. While I may not agree with his points, nor with his choice of dates, what he was saying was his opinion and was not directly inciting violence. Freedom of speech does not go too far; freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, albeit difficult for some to swallow.

“Hate speech is what Rev. Terry Jones was espousing. His comments threatened to incite violence, both in the US and abroad. Hate speech is what happens whenever someone assumes he or she has the freedom to say things with utter disregard to the well-being of others and our global community.

“Freedom of speech allows us to post blogs such as this and openly discuss our differences, including our differences of religion.

“When early Protestants came to the New World, they were not coming to establish freedom of religion for everyone. Persecuted as they were in England by Catholics, Protestants immigrated seeking the freedom to worship, but it’s not like the Puritans or many other early settlers affirmed all faith traditions. As the nation grew, the founding fathers agreed that the state should not be able to impose a particular religion on anyone as the laws in Britain had allowed.

When discussing freedom of religion, we have to keep in mind that the freedom of religion and the freedom to worship are two very different things. It is easy to keep the freedom of religion alive – we can’t make any laws that bar someone’s religion. However, the freedom to worship is and always has been under fire.

“The US is a pluralistic society – one based in Protestant traditions that recognizes and, in come cases, has come to affirm many other faith traditions. Affirmation requires a delicate balance between upholding one’s own beliefs while accepting that another person may have a different path to truth. Our nation, sadly, has not yet come to affirm Islam.

“The reason so many people are afraid of Islam is because the media has overindulged us with images of radicals. Much the same way that someone who was raised in the Catholic tradition may find aspects of Pentecostal tradition strange or foreign (and vice versa), we find the images that we have been given of Islam unusual and suspect. We are uncomfortable with that which we do not understand.

“Freedom of religion and freedom of speech allow us the opportunity to explore what we don’t yet understand, but we too often forget that we each have a responsibility to exercise our Constitutional rights for the best possible purposes. That is the whole reason they were written in the first place.”

From April Lees, Green Class:

“I strongly believe that Freedom of Speech has not gone too far, as it is a democratic right that we Americans have as well as citizens of other democratic free nations. Still, as far as the recent plans of a Christian Congregation to publicly burn the Qur’an shows that some Americans need the virtues of tolerance and charity, not a limit on Freedom of Speech.  Freedom of Speech is a constitutional privilege. This privilege is given to us so that no citizen will be suppressed for having a different opinion. John Stuart Mills summed this up by his Harm principle:  “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freedom-speech/]

“In many ways this is very true. Consider that Martin Luther King Jr. and many of his fellow protesters were attacked by state troopers for peacefully protesting against segregation so that Black Americans could have the same opportunity as White Americans. Because of freedom of Speech, King was granted the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances felt by the Black Community. Also, consider how Mikhail Gorbachev’s establishment of “glasnost” (open discussion) in Communist USSR lead to the liquidation of Soviet Control and opened the door to the development of democracy and independent sovereignty of former Soviet Republics. Freedom of Speech, therefore, has brought social change to groups who would be suppressed otherwise by those in control.

“So, as far as the Qur’an burning goes, Rev. Terry Jones does have the legal right to burn the Qur’an. Does this mean that burning the Qur’an is the right thing to do? No, it is not. It is a public display of hatred towards Muslims and their religion. So how can a free society address the issue of religious intolerance in our society? Speak out against it. And many did speak out against it. While political figures Hilary Clinton and General Petraeus spoke out about the probable consequences of Jones actions, others, such as Angelina Jolie and Pope Benedict XVI, spoke out against Jones for “respect for religious freedom and the logic of reconciliation and peace to prevail over hatred and violence.” The fact that Americans can speak out against Jones actions, which may have contributed to the cancellation of the Qur’an burning, means that Freedom of Speech is fine for our society.

“I believe that society deserves freedom of speech; however, we need to take responsibility and consideration for expressing the right thing.   Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Pope+slams+hatred+over+discarded+plan+burn/3532923/story.html#ixzz100mq5Qyx”

Many thanks to all members of the Trinity community who shared thoughtful comments.  If you would still like to join the discussion, just click on the “comments” link below and add your thoughts!

Follow me on Twitter @Trinityprez

Visit the discussion “On Success” at the WashingtonPost…

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2 Responses to Voices of Trinity: Constitution Day IV

  1. irs levy says:

    years ago i did a tour of duty the marine corps…to defend the constitution…that was a long time ago…freedom of speech, thank god we have it….then we get into hurtful speech, silly speech, and speech for the sake of hearing one’s own voice…i fought for the right to the freedom and yet it drives me “nearly insane”…but what a great country this is…one is free to be anything that you to be…including a small town preacher who wants to burn someone holy book.

  2. April Lees; Green Class says:

    I strongly believe that Freedom of Speech has not gone too far, as it is a democratic right that we Americans have as well as citizens of other democratic free nations. Still, as far as the recent plans of a Christian Congregation to publically burn the Qur’an shows that some Americans need the virtues of tolerance and charity, not a limit on Freedom of Speech.

    Freedom of Speech is a constitutional privilege. This privilege is given to us so that no citizen will be suppressed for having a different opinion. John Stuart Mills summed this up by his Harm principle:

    “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freedom-speech/]

    In many ways this is very true. Consider that Martin Luther King Jr. and many of his fellow protesters were attacked by state troopers for peacefully protesting against segregation so that Black Americans could have the same opportunity as White Americans. Because of freedom of Speech, King was granted the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances felt by the Black Community. Also, consider how Mikhail Gorbachev’s establishment of “glasnost” (open discussion) in Communist USSR lead to the liquidation of Soviet Control and opened the door to the development of democracy and independent sovereignty of former Soviet Republics. Freedom of Speech, therefore, has brought social change to groups who would be suppressed otherwise by those in control.

    So, as far as the Qur’an burning goes, Rev. Terry Jones does have the legal right to burn the Qur’an. Does this mean that burning the Qur’an is the right thing to do? No, it is not. It is a public display of hatred towards Muslims and their religion. So how can a free society address the issue of religious intolerance in our society? Speak out against it. And many did speak out against it. While political figures Hilary Clinton and General Petraeus spoke out about the probable consequences of Jones actions, others, such as Angelina Jolie and Pope Benedict XVI, spoke out against Jones for “respect for religious freedom and the logic of reconciliation and peace to prevail over hatred and violence.” The fact that Americans can speak out against Jones actions, which may have contributed to the cancellation of the Qur’an burning, means that Freedom of Speech is fine for our society.

    I believe that society deserves freedom of speech; however, we need to take responsibility and consideration for expressing the right thing.

    Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Pope+slams+hatred+over+discarded+plan+burn/3532923/story.html#ixzz100mq5Qyx

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: president@trinitydc.edu