Freedom of Speech
The freedom to speak one’s mind openly and without legal coercion is part of the bedrock of our constitutional system. Despite that fact, the actual practice of speech has almost always been under restriction. Speech which creates a public nuisance, which incites to otherwise unlawful conduct, which is designed to generate unsubstantiated public panic , or which divulges security secrets are all banned by law. Obviously we enjoy freedom of speech in only a limited way.
Religiously, Christians have never really enjoyed freedom of religious discourse. As a religion which relies on absolute, essential Truth, any speech which challenges or alters that Truth must be opposed by Orthodox Christianity. The standard practices in opposing any speech which threatens the truth routinely include attacks on the personal character of the people who dare to express an opposing opinion and the implication that any hearers who seriously consider these opinions will lose the blessing of God and the church.
Our concept of freedom of speech developed within a society steeped in the traditions and practices of Orthodox Christianity. It is no surprise then that our freedom to speak our minds openly and our willingness to tolerate that openness in others are so little realized. Ironically the First Amendment addresses both the freedom of speech and religion. Historically the prevalence of Orthodox Christianity as the “national religion” has insured that the freedom of speech has been severely limited. These limitations are supposedly justified as being required for the moral and spiritual good of society. Conveniently, they also serve the purpose of maintaining the supremacy of the “national religion”.
In defining and considering what we as a nation are all about and in proposing to export our “values” to others in this world, we need to consider how others really perceive our concepts of freedom. The inconsistencies between what we proclaim and what we actually practice in the name of freedom will not be easily dismissed by outsiders who don’t view American culture through our own rose colored glasses.