Let me start off by saying I do not support, condone, or defend any of the words or actions created by the white supremacist ideology. However, I am hearing some very dangerous rhetoric coming forward from the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, VA. We need to understand the danger of this rhetoric, not just for our own safety, but for the security of future generations.
A pastor recently tweeted, “Every person who turns up to a white nationalist rally should be arrested. This is 2017.”
This pastor speaks out of ignorance and this ignorance will serve to imprison him one day. Guilt by association is a Marxist principle. America was formed upon Natural Law, which establishes that all people have a natural right to life, liberty and his property. Frederic Bastiat makes this point very clear in is book, The Law:
“Each of us has a natural right -from God- to defend his life, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life and preservation of any of them is the preservation of the other two.”
Among these natural rights is the right to Freedom of Speech. Freedom of speech is so essential to all freedom that if members of a society are denied this fundamental right, no other rights are secure. Benjamin Franklin wrote of this in his Silence Dogood letter of 1722:
“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech…This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own…”
If members of a society can be limited in their speech by government force, then there is no defense of any life, liberty, or property; no peaceful defense at all. The consequence of establishing a government punishment of speech is two fold. First Franklin shows us that without freedom of speech there is no public liberty, no such things as wisdom. In that understanding, Franklin explains that without freedom of speech, all public liberty of the people is overthrown.
“Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech; a Thing terrible to Publick Traytors.”
Thomas Jefferson expounds upon this principle when he said, “…if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be.” Without freedom of speech, without the public wisdom that comes from it, all men in that civilization are slaves to the government approved and dictated narrative.
The second consequence to speech controlled by government force is the establishment of a dangerous precedent. Thomas Paine explains this danger:
“An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to even misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”
When you invite government to oppress the speech of your enemy, you set a precedent for government to oppress you when the times have changed and the government finds your speech a threat. This should be the most compelling motivation for this pastor to defend freedom of speech and association. History is replete with governments punishing religious speech. This is not a history we should ever want repeat in America.
Freedom of speech and freedom of association go hand in hand. They are so intimately related, the designers of our Constitutional Republic placed them both in the First Amendment within our Bill of Rights. You cannot have one without the other.
However, Liberty is not without its limits. These limitations are necessary for the preservation of Liberty as a whole. John Leland, a designer of our Constitutional Republic wrote: “Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another.” Government’s obligation to our rights is to secure them, not regulate them. Government’s securing of our rights does not involve regulating or punishing speech or freedom of association. There ought to be only one limiting factor to our liberty, as Leland and Franklin both state, your expression of liberty cannot harm or control the right of another.
“… Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or controul the Right of another: And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to know.”
Being offended is not a harm, it is a consequence we must suffer to ensure liberty’s survival. We must prosecute people for their actions, that is true. But arresting and prosecuting people for what they say or for simply being with people who say offensive things will lead America down a path of government oppression we cannot allow.
We must limit the government’s authority to those actions that result in the harm or control of another. We cannot give government authority over words or associations. If we give government this power today to control speech we don’t like, then tomorrow our own words and associations may come under the wrath of government when the government doesn’t like what we have to say.
Liberty is not easy, nor is it simple. But we must know, as John Adams proclaimed, “Liberty must at all hazards be supported.” We must also know this truth, we must suffer the rantings of fools to ensure that the voice of truth has its day. The future generations of America and relying upon us to make the right choices. We must choose Liberty First.
“I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.” Thomas Jefferson