The First Amendment is outdated and should be re-written, according to a 51% majority of Americans responding to a Campaign for Free Speech (CFS) poll. At the same time 80% of the respondents didn’t actually know what speech is protected under the First Amendment. CFS says respondents believed the following statement is true: “The First Amendment allows anyone to say their opinion no matter what, and they are protected by law from any consequences of saying those thoughts or opinions.” CFS reports, “It’s actually not true. The First Amendment prevents the government from punishing you for your speech (with exceptions such as yelling “fire” in a crowded area to induce panic).”
Some 51% of Americans, including 57% of Millennials surveyed agreed with the following statement: ‘The First Amendment goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America and should be updated to reflect the cultural norms of today.’ Trouble is, there is no real definition of hate speech because it is subjective. We have seen in today’s American society that hate speech for one is truth for another. For example, it is just fine to label in the most inflammatory terms someone a bigot, racist, homophobe, Islamophobe, misogynist, xenophobe or some other popular slur if they disagree with a political position, but if a preacher from the pulpit quotes the Bible about homosexuality, now that is hate speech.
Could it be that Americans have become so saturated with the visceral speech in society that they are weary of free speech? To me, freedom of speech comes with responsibility. Yes, you have the right to say what you want, and the government cannot suppress it. You also have the right to say hateful or extreme words, phrases, and sentences, but those who heard you also have the right to mete out the consequences—you could lose your job, your friends, or people could just shun you. There are consequences to what you say. As a matter of law, the government cannot censure your free speech, but the rest of society doesn’t have to put up with it. My mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. So you have the right to speak your mind, but should you?
The Bible has a lot to say about our speech. Christ said in Matthew 5:37, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Christ gave us good reasons to take his advice in Matthew 15:19 when he said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” James states that the tongue, “is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” The 9th Commandment says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” In Hebrew, it’s called “Lashon hara,” or evil tongue. Instead of rewriting the First Amendment, it is wiser to take responsibility and hold accountability for what we say to one another.