‘“Free speech” is a term that gets thrown around quite often these days. But what is it? And why is it important?
The freedom of speech is simply the ability to say, write, or otherwise express what you truly believe without fear of punishment or retaliation from the government.
This freedom is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” The authors of our Constitution believed it was very important to protect this freedom.
And for good reason.
Speaking is how you express your thoughts. So if government officials can force you to say things you don’t believe, you no longer control the content of your speech and thus lose the freedom to live consistently with the principles you treasure most.
Government officials who seek to control your speech are trying to control what you think and what you do. And that’s contrary to the very idea of freedom. Not only that, but it’s contrary to the dignity of the human person. Our thoughts not only cause our actions, they are the most personal possession we have.
While upholding human dignity is the most important reason to protect this freedom, it certainly isn’t the only reason.
If you want good ideas to have influence, you’ll support protections for the freedom of speech. The best ideas often come from the robust discussion and debate of many different ideas.
And this cannot exist without free speech.
What the freedom of speech is not.
Some might argue that the freedom of speech is just a piece of rhetoric used by those who want to say hateful things. But this is false.
Free speech is a right that every individual possesses as a human being created by God.
And this right isn’t just for those with certain beliefs. In fact, that’s the whole point. There are as many unique perspectives as there are people. Our ability to share our perspective with others is what free speech is all about.
As the Declaration of Independence says, “all men are created equal.” But this doesn’t mean that all ideas are equal. There will always be bad or even false ideas that we must address.
But the answer isn’t to shut down debate or silence the people sharing those ideas. The answer is more speech.
We can use our own speech to answer hateful statements with good and truthful ones. We can debate ideas we consider bad with those we believe are good.
No matter what, we need those with whom we disagree to be involved in the conversation.
Debate with our ideological opponents sharpens our ideas and may even allow us to see the truth in a new and unexpected way. Not only that, but our opponents’ right to free speech should be protected because they are human beings with dignity just like us. And if their right is taken away, then ours can easily be taken away too.
It has been said that “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”’ https://www.adflegal.org/blog/what-is-freedom-of-speech