The freedoms on which America was founded began to be seriously eroded in the last century, and this erosion has accelerated at an even more alarming pace over the last few years.
The Pilgrims sailed for America in 1620 to pursue religious freedom after suffering many hardships in England and the Netherlands, with the prospect of suffering many more in the New World. Their knowledge of this new land was limited to accounts of failed colonies, dangerous natives, and little else but speculation. Nevertheless, they embarked for this wild new land in pursuit of the freedom to worship as they saw fit which was denied them in the Old World. They encountered many hardships that reduced their numbers, yet they persisted, for their desire to worship God in their own way was more powerful than even their desire for comfort and security.
It was the memory of these hardships endured for the freedom to worship that inspired the First Amendment to the Constitution enshrining the Freedom of Religion as a sacred right for all Americans. Nevermore would the state be allowed to either determine one’s religious beliefs or establish an official religion in the creation of this nation. Almighty God was recognized for His role in preserving the Pilgrims and many thanks were offered to Him for the success which had allowed the establishment of the United States. Our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, mention God and His divine providence in the founding of our country and the preservation of its people.
Yet today, the very religious freedom upon which this country was founded is under assault by the government that was established to protect its practice. Expressions of the Christian religion such as Nativity scenes and crosses have been driven from any public space and many private spaces through incessant lawsuits all claiming to find offense to some religion or the other of any Christian message. Tolerance of other religions has resulted in the near eradication of Judeo-Christian symbols, and driven the expression of Christianity to an almost underground status. The Pilgrims could well identify with the current state of Christianity in America as they were forced to practice their beliefs underground in the Old World.
In addition to preventing the establishment of an official state religion, the First Amendment also protects the free exercise of one’s religion. However, when Christianity is the only religion which seems to offend anyone anymore, and we Christians must take care not to overtly display our Christianity, can we truly say that our right to be Christians and freely express our religious views is protected under the Constitution? When Muslims in America can engage in the most egregious behavior without fear of retribution, does anyone truly believe that an official religion is not being established surreptitiously? This official religion is not Muslim or any other recognized religion. It is the religion of groupthink constructed around the logical absurdity of avoiding any offense to the point of not allowing the particular religious thought to even exist.
Along with religious freedom, the First Amendment sought to protect the freedom for one to speak his mind on any topic. It was realized that in order to be truly free, a citizen must be free to criticize the government or expound on the most absurd topics, much the same as the concept of free will is dependent upon our ability to either accept or reject God of our own accord. Surveying today’s landscape, can we say that we enjoy freedom of expression given the preponderance of speech codes permeating our educational institutions, and the stigma attached to certain words such as “nigger” or “retarded” or “crippled” banned because their use may be upsetting to particular groups?
There was an old saying that went something like “I may not agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” That attitude, once so prevalent among Americans, has been replaced by an array of speech codes instituted by spineless administrators afraid to defend the right to free speech and the consequences this right entails. Free speech is occasionally upsetting to some, but it is entirely necessary for a free society. If one can be cowed into silence for fear of upsetting others, then they can be silenced by leaders bent on the misuse of government power to achieve nefarious ends. When Americans lose the ability to freely criticize our government and the actions of our leaders, then we become slaves to that government and are no better off than those living under the dictatorships we deplore.
Our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is under constant assault by those who mistakenly believe that the elimination of firearms will somehow magically eliminate both man’s ability and desire to do violence to his fellow man. Despite all of the statistics demonstrating that the homicide rate due to gun violence increases when gun control is instituted, they stubbornly cling to the belief that gun control is effective and refuse to concede that criminals have little fear of breaking yet another law in pursuit of their criminal careers. Responsible, law-abiding Americans seeking to protect their homes and families from the criminal element are denied the fundamental right to self-protection through the employment of effective means such as gun ownership when gun control is instituted. Criminals thus become assured that the populace on which they prey is effectively unarmed and unprotected.
America has gone a long way towards the severe curtailment of our freedoms as envisioned by the Founders. Our exercise of freedom always depended upon our ability to exercise restraint in the application of this freedom. As we have lost the ability to exercise restraint, so we have lost the ability to exercise certain freedoms. The Constitution was not established to guarantee that Americans could do exactly as they pleased as long as it felt good. It established reasonable limits to a federal government and left laws up to the individual states. Gradually, through the application of federal funding, the federal government has assumed more and more of the functions once reserved to the states, and eroded the freedoms which Americans once enjoyed.
We are free to assemble, but only after we secure a permit from the state. We are free to worship, but not openly if it offends anyone else. We are free to speak our minds as long as we avoid certain words and don’t offend anyone else. We are free to criticize the federal government as long as we don’t mind an IRS audit or a visit from the FBI to ostensibly check us out. We are not free to pray in school, at school functions, on school grounds, or host school functions at religious facilities. We have the right to remain silent, and are encouraged to do so as much as possible. We are mostly free to own firearms after securing the necessary permits, submitting to background checks, and enduring waiting periods, but we are not free to carry these firearms without even more permits, and expressly forbidden to carry firearms in many public spaces.
America’s Founders would be aghast at the growth of the federal government and the loss of freedom Americans have squandered in the pursuit of illusionary security, but they would also be shocked at the inability of Americans to exercise the personal responsibility so prevalent in their time that it was not thought necessary it should be reduced to words for fear of stating the obvious. Imagine their surprise over discovering the need to legally define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. My God, how far have we descended when something as innate as marriage requires a legal definition?
Our loss of freedom has been engineered by the elites who feel they know best how to run our lives, and accomplished through our desire to let others live peaceably and without offense. We’ve allowed certain freedoms to be curtailed in the mistaken belief that offended parties would be satisfied and that they intended to respect our ability to be offended, which was never the case. The elites have advanced the abridgment of our freedom through disingenuous methods involving imagined offenses and relying on our live and let live attitudes. America, established as a beacon of freedom in a world darkened by dictatorship, is no longer the freest country in the world. Enriched by the unfettered exercise of capitalism, it is no longer the most economically free country in the world. The picture of freedom in America today is much different from that imagined by our Founders when establishing this country in the pursuit of freedom.