Frederick Jones: We still have duty of protecting free speech
by Frederick Jones
Guest Columnist
January 20, 2011 12:00 AM | 1943 views | 10 10 comments | 168 168 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Is the reading of the United States Constitution aloud in Congress a sign that our country has gotten off track, or did our elected officials need a refresher course on constitutional law? Let me ask a few questions. As an American, how familiar am I with the constitution? Do I know my constitutional rights, all of them? Or has the Constitution simply become a document I remember from reading about in grade school?

Last week our nation witnessed a very historic and powerful event, i.e., the very first public reading of the United States Constitution by Congress. The reading of the Constitution should not be an event we shy away from or ignore. More importantly, this should not be the last time it is read aloud. This event should give Americans the incentive to brush up on this important document, understand, and appreciate the important rights it guarantees us as American citizens.

Our Constitution is the supreme law of the land and we must do everything in our power to uphold and protect it. But my question is this: How is it possible for the citizenry to uphold and protect a document that many or most Americans have never read?

The foundations of our country and communities are in a crisis when our Constitution is not acknowledged. Right now, as a country, we are faced with difficult economic times, communities are entangled with crime, and courts are faced with increasingly more difficult and complex cases. I've often heard it said that hard cases make bad law. However, when hard cases are presented we as citizens have a duty to rise up, speak up and stand with courage to protect the integrity of our Constitution. All that is required for the undermining of our Constitution is for those of us who know our rights to keep silent when others are screaming for the passage of laws that will take away our rights.

Currently the country is quietly awaiting a decision in the case of Snyder vs. Phelps. This is a gut wrenching case in which the Westboro Baptist Church members showed up in protest of military funerals holding signs and banners that many felt displayed offensive, insensitive and extremely inappropriate messages. No doubt this was an appalling display of First Amendment rights. However, doesn't the Constitution protect them and their free speech? YES it does, and this is one of the most important factors the court must consider when handing down a decision in this case. The painful challenge by the victim's family, challenging the rights of the protestors to protest, make this a case with the potential to shake the very foundation of our constitutional right to freedom of speech.

There are four primary sources of law in this country and they are the Constitution, case law, legislative law and administrative law. The supreme law of the land is our Constitution. Whenever a case reaches the Supreme Court, and it decides to hear the case, the door is open for the court to say more clearly what the Constitution says regarding the point of the law at issue in that particular case. These situations open us up and leave us most vulnerable to opinion and preferences of jurists who disagree with the Constitution.

In a sensitive case such as Snyder vs. Phelps, it is easy to sympathize with the deceased soldiers family and to condemn the Westboro Baptist church for their inappropriate actions. However, regardless of how distasteful his or her choice of words may be, the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to freedom of speech.

When the right to free speech is denied, limited or restricted to any degree, we as American citizens have a duty and responsibility to rise up and cry out to our lawmakers and judges in an effort to protect and preserve our constitutional rights. Regardless of our personal beliefs in a particular situation, our Constitution should be protected at all cost! If we do not stand up for what the Constitution protects, who knows what may be forced upon us or taken from us by those who believe they know what is best for us the American people.

Frederick Jones is an attorney and business law lecturer at the Coles College of Business Kennesaw State University.
Comments
(10)
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Cari McIntyre
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February 03, 2011
Great Article!!!!

Josh Marotta
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January 25, 2011
I am actually saddened by this article. The fact that we as Americans do not care enough to voice our opinions. The fact that over half of America does not know their own constitutional rights. We stand for our freedom and rights, but we don't even know what we stand for. It's just disappointing.
Sgt Russell USMC
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January 22, 2011
This article hits especially hard on me. As you know I am a United States Marine. Every day at eight o’clock I salute the colors and the National Anthem. My work, life, and core values revolve around the protection of this great nation. It appalls me to hear of anyone that challenges these rights that my fellow countrymen fought and died to protect. It is especially revolting to me what happened at the military funeral and I am disgusted with the manner in which the protest was executed, but that does not give us the right to take anybodies first amendments rights away. If we deny these first amendment rights to the Baptist church, what other rights are we willing to sacrifice? Who will draw the line to say what rights can be bent, levied, or broken? I will tell you who, the United States Constitution and all the founding fathers is who. If Ben Franklin was here today, what would he think of what we have become? Do you think he would just stand idolly by a watch our first amendment rights be stripped away? Most certainly not, he would stand up and say no you will not take away my rights, no you will not deny me the liberties given to me as an American citizen, and yes I will scream you will not as proof of my freedom of speech. If we fail to be politically correct by hurting some ones feelings, but stand to demonstrate our freedom of speech, then so be it. I dare any entity in this world to try to take my rights away from me as an American citizen. I will lay down my life along my brethren throughout history to protect these freedoms, provide democracy, and ensure the United States of America always stays the land of the free and the home of the brave.

lecturee
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January 22, 2011
Dr.Douglas,

Well stated and spot on. For those readers of this article who still struggle with the idea that the constitution is in place to protect YOUR rigths--try reading it sometime!
Elizabeth Hernandez
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January 21, 2011
Great article!!! Finally someone took the time to write about the importance of reading, knowing and understanding our constitution.
Carolyn Walter
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January 21, 2011
I certainly believe and support our first amendment rights but does it really give us the right to say and do things that are dangerous or offensive to people? For instance does it really give us the right to yell "fire" just for the heck of it in a crowded building just to see what happens if there isn't a fire? People would start running and there would be injuries because someone "exercised" their freedom of speech. I believe this boils down to personal responsibility and we are seeing hurtful things going on in congress right now in the name of free speech. I know you can't legislate morals but we should be teaching people how to treat one another.
lacradrian jones
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January 20, 2011
Uncle Fredrick you did a humendous job about the constitutional rights and thank you Uncle Fredrick for reminding me to make sure i know my costitutional rights and take a stand for them.
Louise Johnson
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January 20, 2011
This article touched my very soul it carried me back when we had no rights. Now we have them and we allow situations and circumstances to blind side us to keep us from standing up for our Constitutional Rights. Thank You for reminding me of my rights I also will remind others. Thank You Again
Marie Williams
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January 20, 2011
Thanks for reminding us of our First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States! Great Article!
Johanna Landreneau
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January 20, 2011
Thank you for such an insightful reminder of what we as Americans take for granted--daily.
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