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By Dr. Rick Koole
LifePointe Church 

Freedom

 

Last updated 7/10/2021 at 8:42am



Having just celebrated the Fourth of July, let's pause to remember there was a reason the founders of our country chose to place the following amendment first among those in the Bill of Rights.

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.

So many of the first settlers in America risked the perilous journey across the sea for the specific purpose of moving to a place where they could worship as they pleased; where the government would neither force them to join an established national church, nor hinder them in any way from worshipping as they pleased.

The First Amendment guarantees that every American can not only worship as they please but also speak without being censored, as well as peaceably assemble, and petition the government. It's one of the main reasons people have continued the quest to become a part of this great experiment in freedom.

But freedom demands vigilance. As President Dwight Eisenhower warned, history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid. And the freedom of speech is the one thing that tyrants know they must stifle. As the former slave Frederick Douglass noted, liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the one right which they first of all strike down.

It's easy to say you believe in free speech when someone is saying something you agree with, but the test comes when you stand up for the right of someone to say things with which you disagree. Salmon Rushdie had a Fatwa issued for his life after publishing The Satanic Verses that irritated the Ayatollah Khomeini. After years of hiding, Rushdie famously said, "The defense of free speech begins at the point where people say something you can't stand. If you can't defend their right to say it, then you don't believe in free speech."

Growing more and more alarmed over what appears to be a growing censorship of free speech in America by tech companies, the media and even some in government, Erwin Lutzer, in his new book "We Will Not Be Silenced," echoed what Rushdie said with the statement, "You don't believe in free speech unless you give others the right to offend you by what they say." That right is what has made the United States exceptional among the nations, and one of the main reasons we celebrate the 4th of July.

I get annoyed when I see some of the efforts to "rewrite" our history. Although I acknowledge some of the mistakes and horrible injustices of the past, they are lessons from which we can learn and need not be erased from the story of America as happened during the bloody cultural revolution in China. That's when Mao Zedong decreed that China was to rid itself of all traces of capitalistic Western influence. The Red Guards took to the streets and monuments were destroyed. Western literature was burned, and buildings renamed.

Arthur Schlesinger, the speechwriter for President Kennedy wrote, "History is to the nation much as memory is to the individual. The individual who loses his memory doesn't know where he came from or where he's going and he becomes dislocated and disoriented."

Let us cherish and protect the freedoms we have in America.

 

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