Free speech, free consequences

Friday, August 3, 2018

Our nation is blessed to be guaranteed free speech via the U.S. Constitution. Too many citizens, however, believe free speech applies to all aspects of American life.

The First Amendment was and is intended to prevent Congress from restricting certain types of freedom of speech. (Examples of “speech” prohibited include fraud, child pornography and speech that incites lawless action, to name a few.)

No where else are we guaranteed freedom of speech or freedom from censorship. While we might be allowed to express ourselves elsewhere, we are not exempt from the consequences of our speech. Furthermore, we cannot demand that we be heard in non-government venues.

Consider the current anger at social media sites that have begun cracking down on those who spread hateful speech, like terrorist groups from overseas and hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan in America. Some free speech proponents, as well as those who support the ideology of certain hate groups, have argued that sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are censoring individuals and denying their right to free speech.

But social media sites are not required to provide a venue to every person or group. They can operate this way because, as a business, these sites have guaranteed rights themselves. If the manager of a business tells an employee that certain topics cannot be discussed in the office, that is a rule of the business, and the business has the right to create and enforce that rule. In the same way, you have the right to control the speech expressed in your home. No one can walk into your home and tell you, “I have something to say and you are forced to let me say it.”

As Americans, we are fortunate to have ample opportunity to express our thoughts. However, we do not have the right to express ourselves any time or place we wish.

Well, we can try. Just remember that you are not exempt from the consequences of your speech.