"In honor of Constitution Week, I want to talk about said Constitution. That seems appropriate seeing as it’s kind of a big deal in this country.
"I don’t need to tell anyone that the Constitution is important and essential to democracy (by the way, the word "democracy" isn’t mentioned once in the entire document, just a fun fact). Rather, I want to talk about how people misuse and misunderstand it, specifically the First Amendment to the Constitution.
"One of the great things about the Constitution is that it’s open to interpretation. There are many schools of thought on how we should read into the Constitution’s various amendments and articles. There are some people who think we should apply its words to modern society regardless of whether or not the Founding Fathers intended them to be used in such a manner or not. But then there’s the opposite side of the spectrum that says every word has to be interpreted in the exact way the framers wrote it (which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, seeing as the Founding Fathers both didn’t want women to vote and owned slaves. Not exactly the model modern citizens). But even if you wanted to maniacally parse every word of the Constitution and interperet it according to the original intent of a gaggle of old white men, in order to do that, you first need to know what the Constitution literally says.
"As I said, the First Amendment is the one that suffers the most abuse, mostly because people see freedom of speech as the ultimate freedom, the one that separates us from apes. It’s a simple concept that anyone can grasp. You rarely hear people raving about America because they’re protected from self-incrimination in court. The problem is that people forget how speech is protected and push this freedom to its limits.
"For a document filled with some vague language, the First Amendment is actually pretty straight forward. Since you can read an abridged version at the top of the opposite page, I won’t rehash the entire thing. But the key language is in the first few words: "Congress shall make no law…" All the Amendment says is that you can’t be punished by a court of law or discriminated against by the government for speech or religious reasons. You can still be fired from a job and be criticized by the public. Therefore, a person’s First Amendment rights have not been violated if they were fired from a job for something they said.
"Two examples of this immediately come to mind: Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Carrie Prejean. Dr. Laura, who’s doctorate is in physiology, not psychology as she would have you believe, was in the news recently when she left her syndicated radio show after she repeatedly used the N-word in a conversation with a caller. She said that she was leaving her show because she wanted to "regain my First Amendment rights." The problem? She never lost her rights.
"It’s still unclear whether she quit or was fired, but even if she was forced to leave, her employer didn’t do anything wrong. If one of your employees says something inflammatory or insensitive, you have the right to fire that person. Editorial control is not illegal censorship. Imagine how free speech would be infringed if it was. Dr. Laura wasn’t arrested or sent to jail. Her rights are intact, even if her common sense and decency aren’t.
"Carrie Prejean, the Miss USA contestant who said she opposed gay marriage, had a similar situation. Prejean said at a news conference in May that she was "punished" for exercising her freedom of speech.
""This should not happen in America," Prejean said. "I believe no one should be silenced if they are speaking from their heart."
"She even wrote a book about how she was stripped of her rights after her statements. Again, this is inaccurate. Nobody said she didn’t have the right to say what she said. They were just exercising their God-given right to make fun of her for it. It’s the American way. The fact that people supported her and considered her some kind of First Amendment martyr is laughable.
"People need to understand free speech is a two-way street. You can say whatever you want, but that also means people can criticize you however they want. All I ask is for people to fully understand how their speech is protected in this country, and how one can recklessly abuse it.
"The Constituion was written as a durable and everlasting document. But it’s importance can be undone by people’s ignorance of its content. So whatever your personal beliefs are, make sure you’re knowledgable about the Constitution. You’ll have a lot more credibility that way.