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David Hegg: Our freedom of speech is being taken away

Posted: June 15, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 15, 2014 2:00 a.m.

One of our most necessary freedoms as Americans is the freedom of speech, as protected in the Bill of Rights. Yet, today, while much is being shouted and written supporting this prized privilege, the fact is the freedom to speak is being taken away.

I’m talking about the cultural phenomenon called debate. Given that issues in an ever-changing culture will arise with the potential for deep societal division, debate is necessary as the vehicle for an informed populace. Debates are where issues are intentionally granted the floor as proponents of various views throw out their best arguments with the understanding that their back and forth nature provides the public the opportunity to determine which view should hold sway.

But today debate is being marginalized, ridiculed, and stifled by those who refuse to tolerate opposing views. And yes, I said tolerate, and I use it in its original meaning of “putting up with those we think are wrong.” Tolerance presupposes disagreement, and speaks to the advisability of granting our opponents the right to be heard, regardless of how wrong we may feel them to be.

But those who have worked hard to redefine “tolerance” have done a masterful job. Tolerance is now equivalent to acceptance. To disagree on an issue is now paramount to prejudice or worse. And the upstart of all this is that real, robust debate on issues of social and political importance is becoming a thing of the past out of fear that opposition to a cultural trend will cost you your job, and perhaps your freedom.

Consequently, we as a public are deprived of the best arguments in favor of traditional marriage, intelligent design as a possible answer for our very existence, the existence of God, and a whole host of other issues. If the growing army of secular, materialistic elitists has its way none of these issues will ever be given proper consideration. The freedom to speak about the evidence supporting countercultural views is being taken away in astounding ways.

The latest cover of Time magazine presents yet another area that should be open to spirited debate. It is the issue of trangenderism. The fact is that those wishing to change the physical properties of their birth gender do so primarily based on a subjective feeling that the gender assigned them by the process of conception and growth in the womb is all wrong. My greatest concern here, besides the obvious relegation of God’s creative purposes to the trash bin, is that there are already laws and mandates being prepared that will force citizens to consider the subjective as a better grounds of reality than the objective evidence of the body. Based on a person’s feelings about their gender, we may have to allow a boy to use the girls’ restroom in our school, for example. But once we grant that one person’s feelings create the public’s reality we’re in huge trouble.

And perhaps equally troubling, it is already considered hate speech by many to state that those engaging in surgeries to alter the physical appearance of their sexual apparatus are just flat out wrong. I believe we owe those we oppose the tolerance that flows from an understanding that all life is valuable. But this tolerance reserves the right to speak firmly against the faulty reasoning, and negative consequences that flow from an intrinsically wrong belief system.

So there you have it. The nation in which free speech has always been considered a bedrock essential to freedom is the same nation that is now heaping reprisal on any who dare debate issues of social importance. But, if we look closely at our history, it was debate that hammered out the values that form the foundation of our democracy.

Point and counterpoint are not our enemies. Our enemy is the idea that only one view can be tolerated, which really isn’t tolerance at all. May God bless the America where opinions are valued, opposition is tolerated, and truth wins the day.

David Hegg is a senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. “Ethically Speaking” runs Sundays in The Signal.


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