Remember Our Heritage: Freedom of Speech

By Angela Wittman

John Adams"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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
-- First Amendment To THE BILL OF RIGHTS Of THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES of America

"You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments;rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe."
--John Adams, Second President of the United States

Dear Friends,

As we near election day here in Illinois and cast our ballot for the future Governor of our great state, let us be informed voters and truly vote our conscience. I pray we will diligently research the candidates and find out how they have voted on past issues and what action they have taken on those issues while holding public office. We may need to be a little more diligent in our research this election than in past years as we now have three candidates on the ballot for Illinois Governor and only two are reported to be included in the gubernatorial debates -- the candidates from the two major parties.

Why isn't the candidate from a "third party" participating? It is reported that the other two candidates have excluded him. I pray this is not the case as we need to know where all the candidates stand on the issues and, (more importantly), what have they done while in office? Due to the Campaign Finance Reform Bill that was passed and is presently being challenged as unconstitutional, we will have even less access to voter information before the November elections.

In my opinion, public debating is of vital importance to learn what issues are a priority for the candidates and how they would lead once elected to office. Is the major two party Illinois political candidates keeping the spirit of the first amendment right to freedom of speech while excluding the third party candidate?

To be honest with everyone, I must admit that I had to contact the third party candidate, Cal Skinner, personally to find out what his beliefs on the sanctity of human life and government education are. Now, if he were to be allowed in the debates, these beliefs would probably be made public knowledge and would spark lively debate. Could it be that the major parties, in their zeal to capture votes and retain political control, have ignored the God-given constitutional right to freedom of speech? Why not allow Cal Skinner to freely speak on the issues in the four debates scheduled? May the political "powers that be" not stifle our freedom of speech, nor disregard a candidate because he is not a player in their major party.

Dear friends, I pray we will be even more diligent to elect those who will protect our God-given rights and the Constitution to the United States of America, and who will refuse to erode our liberties. May we also examine those running for public office and vote for the candidate that does not play political games, but is truly a public servant and a man of conviction. May we as law abiding citizens, also remember that along with our rights comes responsibility. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1790, in Official Opinion: "All natural rights may be abridged or modified in their exercise by law." Pornography and profanity are two examples of when exercising a right should be restrained or modified. Anthony K. Pritchard writes in his essay Rights and Their Exercise:

"One example of the abridging or modifying of rights is the oft heard expression about free speech and shouting fire in a crowded theatre when there is no fire. We all possess the right to free speech, but do not have the right to exercise it in this manner.....Simply put, the exercising of your rights does not extend to the harm of another, or the violation of the rights of another."

We must be vigilant to protect our freedom while not infringing upon the rights of others.

James Madison, Hamilton's major collaborator, ... In conclusion, let us take to heart the words of James Madison in his speech to the Virginia State Convention of 1829 -- 1830:

"The essence of government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse."

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Originally published in 2002. Updated 11.06.2013

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