Free speech is one of the most cherished rights guaranteed by our Constitutution. I take it quite seriously (if you want to know how seriously, look up Jim Belshaw's January 28, 2007 column in the Albuquerque Journal -- www.abqjournal.com). Belief in and support of free speech are always easy when the speech is something with which you agree. But when you encounter something that is so repugnant, so heinous, and so contrary to everything you hold sacred, well, that is when supporting free speech is tough to do. But to me, that's when it really counts. How hard is it to accept something that corresponds to what you think is right? That's a no-brainer. It's the opposite that's difficult.
Did you know that our First Amendement guarantees us more than just free speech? In fact, there are five rights - the five freedoms - specifically mentioned. I'm sure we all know of freedom of press and religion. How about the freedom to peaceably assemble? Or the right to petition our government to redress grievances (to correct wrongs)?
Here are the exact words 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.
Here are some places to obtain more information:
http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/firstamendment/firstamendment.htm (American Library Association)
http://www.illinoisfirstamendmentcenter.com/ (a particularly "cool" site)
Want a simple way to remember your FARs (First Amendment Rights)? Just use the mnemonic RAPPS - religion, assembly, press, petition, and speech.
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Ben Franklin