This week on my local news, I saw coverage of a local ad campaign sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Coalition of Reason (NWACoR). They have placed a billboard that is causing QUITE a stir. The billboard reads: Are you good without God? Millions are. Understandably, the issue is intensely polarizing and has inspired everything from news stories to Facebook groups to countless heated discussions.
To be clear, I am not here to debate the existence of God. Nor am I here to either support or snub the Northwest Arkansas Coalition of Reason or their intentions. I am here to support the NWACoR?s right to sponsor such a billboard.
Congress shall make no law? abridging the freedom of speech?
Authors of the United States Constitution placed so much importance on the Right to Free Speech that they put it in the FIRST Amendment. Free Speech is right there among what are arguably the most significant and distinguishing freedoms Americans enjoy. Freedom of speech, of the press, freedom of religion, and of assembly, and the right to petition. People ? without these things, we aren?t Americans.
Free Speech means ? at some point ? you will hear things you don?t agree with and encounter things that bother you. It means people are not required by law to see eye to eye. It means you might be uncomfortable when other citizens exercise THEIR right to free speech, but your discomfort does not eradicate the fact that they operate under the same freedoms as you do. Whether it?s the Northwest Arkansas Coalition of Reason or something as unpopular as flag burning — if you appreciate your right to free speech, it means you expressly support the rights of those whose views you may downright despise.
As a Mom (or parent), your first instinct is protection for your kids, right? You want to shield them from the stuff that?s uncomfortable or hard to talk about or maybe even hurtful. But isn?t it more important to teach them acceptance and understanding ? and mutual respect? That not everyone in this country agrees on everything, and why that?s ok. And so, so important.
Unfortunately, there are no (secular) laws requiring kindness and respect among people. It?s not illegal to be impolite. That?s up to each of us. It?s up to us, as parents, to practice consideration and compassion, and to ensure our kids become kind, respectful, confident little people. The United States merely grants us permission to do that as we see fit. I am beyond grateful that I get to raise my kiddo in a country that gives him the right to his opinions and beliefs, and I am prepared to explain to him that while we don?t agree with everything swirling around out there ? we are PROUD to be a family that supports the freedoms that make it all possible.
The Bill of Rights is something of which most people in this country are very proud. But sometimes it?s really, really hard to swallow the fact that people are free to do things that we don?t necessarily like or support. But, at the end of the day, I thank God I live where it is legal to speak my mind, and support what I believe in, and agree to disagree.
Freedom of speech is a two-way street, and it cannot be restricted to what (some may believe) is respectful or appropriate. Or comfortable. Or popular. The NWACoR has a right to their billboard. And I have a right to my opinion of it. God bless America.
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. ?Voltaire
This post has been adapted for Musings of Mother Hood. It was originally posted on Deep South Moms Blog on April 12, 2010.