Editorial: Are all of our freedoms absolute?
When a California pastor says the 100 people who were killed or injured in Orlando “deserve what they got,” is that opinion protected by the constitution? Does the man who shot them have a legal right to purchase and possess the guns he used and is that right protected by the constitution? Do Christians who believe as the pastor does also think the constitution is more precise than the Bible, which most Christian religions believe is inspired by God? Many religions have adjusted the prism through which the Bible is viewed. The Bible says homosexuals should be punished by death. Is that what the terrorist did last week in Orlando? If the Bible is meant to be understood literally, is it also meant to be applied literally? Should, as it says in Deuteronomy, an unmarried girl who lives with her father and is not a virgin, be stoned to death by the men in the town? Should anyone who curses their mother or father be put to death (Leviticus)? Should an adulterer or adulteress also be killed (Leviticus)? The point of all that is this – if parts of the Bible can be seen as perhaps outdated in a literal interpretation, how can we not think the same thing about the constitution? It’s far from the word of God. It’s the words of a bunch of old, white guys, many of whom owned people. The pastor in the question we began with said of the victims in Orlando, “You don’t mourn the death of them. They deserve what they got. You reap what you sow.” Somehow this man, a Baptist minister, has decided all homosexuals are also pedophiles. “Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today,” he asked members of his congregation. “Um, no. I think that’s great. I think that helps society. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.” He said the government should “round them all up” and kill them. The First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; of the right of the people to peaceably assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Courts have said that some speech is not protected by the First Amendment. Fighting words – words meant to draw someone into a fight – are not protected. But radical speech is protected. The Supreme Court has found that all speech is protected, except “where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” So, preachers can say stupid things and they are protected by the Constitution. But, author Robert Creamer says, one thing is certain: intolerance and hatred inevitably lead to violence and death. So, we, as a society, must work to become tolerate and respectful of other religions, sexual orientations, races and lifestyles. That means, if the conservatives get their way and we “bring prayer back into the schools,” we must be ready to accept morning, school-wide prayers from a Muslim and a Methodist. It was just over a year ago that nine people were slaughtered in Charleston because the gunman is a racist. Small groups of Islamic terrorists have killed large numbers of people in San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels and Boston. Two professors, one from UNC and one from Duke, released a study (based on research) that says people in the United States are seven times more likely to be killed by a right wing extremist than a Muslim terrorist. Since 9/11, Muslim terrorists have killed 100 people (including Orlando) in the US. Right wing extremists have murdered 254 people. Does an anti-abortion extremist have a moral right to kill people that a Muslim extremist doesn’t have? Isn’t intolerance, bigotry and hatred wrong in all forms?