Sunday, June 26, 2011

Freedom of Speech, Unless You're a Christian

I guess these should probably come as no surprise, but a couple of news stories caught my attention in the past couple of weeks. The first took place in California, and the second in Vermont. Although these stories happened a few thousand miles apart, situations like them are becoming increasingly common.

In Palm Desert, California, a public high school canceled a fund-raiser and returned $45,000.00 because school officials refused to allow a couple of students to share their Christian faith. The school was raising funds by selling memorial brick pavers to students that would be laid in a walkway at the school to be used and seen by students in future classes.

The students were allowed to have their pavers inscribed with a favorite saying or some words of wisdom to inspire future students. A couple of students had their pavers inscribed with a verse from the Bible, and school officials refused to allow these particular pavers to be laid. The two students, Lou Ann Hart and Sheryl Caronna, filed a court complaint against the school for not allowing their pavers to be included in the walkway. As a result, the school district officials chose to cancel the fundraiser and forego the $45,000.00 they had raised up to that point. You can read the news story at the following link:

In Vermont, a young man named Kyle Gearwar graduated at the top of his class at Fair Haven Union High School. As Valedictorian, he was allowed to make an acceptance speech, but his speech had to be approved by the school's principal before he could deliver it. Kyle's speech was not approved, however, because he mentioned Jesus Christ and talked about how Jesus had changed his life. He was allowed to say everything else he had planned to say, but that portion of his speech had to be excluded. Here is the link to this news story:

You can also read the text of Kyle's origianl speech here:

Both of these stories are examples of school systems infringing upon our constitutional right to freedom of speech. Again, these types of stories are becoming increasingly common, and because they are happening more and more, it is easy for us to become desensitized to them. However, we need to understand and keep in mind that these are serious violations of our civil rights, and if this trend goes unchanged, there is no telling where it will stop. The school systems claim that they made these decisions so they would not be promoting any particular religion. However, I would be willing to bet that if any of these students had chosen to leave a verse from the Koran or a gay rights slogan, they would probably not have been censored. In many of these situations, the authorities involved seem to be singling out Christians.

In California, which is a state that is nearly bankrupt, a school, in need of funds, chose to give back $45,000.00 rather than allow two Christian girls to share a Bible verse on a brick. In Vermont, a student graduating at the top of his class was forced to change his speech because he wanted to encourage others by sharing his personal story. This should outrage us! Some believe that Christians should just sit back and quietly accept such treatment, but I believe we have been quiet long enough!

The Constitution is clear about our right to freedoms of speech and religion. Here is the text of the First Amendment:

"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."

This Amendment can be studied further at the following link:

The US Constitution is clear about the government's role regarding religion and free speech. These school systems, which are government run institutions, are in violation of some of our most basic freedoms. The freedom of speech was interwoven in the original fabric of America. Francis-Marie Arouet Voltaire, a French author and philosopher who was influential in the mentalities of many of our founding fathers, once said: "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." We need to recapture this kind of respect for our freedom of speech and freedom of religion. If we allow the rights to continue to be violated, the inevitable result will be devastating.

Now, as I have stated, examples like these are becoming increasingly common. It is easy to be overwhelmed and wonder if there is really anything we can do about it, but there is much we can do. First we have to determine to never surrender and just accept that this is going to be the reality going forward. The United States was founded upon Godly principles, and it is not difficult to look around and see how our society is suffering as a result of the steps we have already taken to exclude God from our nation. We have to lead the way in welcoming God back to our schools, our neighborhoods and the hearts of our elected officials.

We need to pray for the Lord to intervene and ask for His mercy for our nation. We need to vote candidates into office who share our views and are committed to fight for them. Finally, we need to refuse to compromise and bend to the mounting pressures that seem to be all around us. Beyond this, I believe if we ask Him, the Lord will guide us all on a personal level as to our individual course of action. Even though it may seem that we are the minority, we cannot afford to give up hope and throw in the towel. Andrew Jackson once said "One man with courage makes a majority." If we are standing with the Lord and are determined to see His will done in this land, we are the majority. This is a fight we cannot afford to lose, and may it never be said about us that we laid down our armor when we were needed the most.

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