No God, No Free Speech

March, 2021 Barak Lurie

One of the things that fascinates us and what we take for granted is free speech. You’re hearing a lot about that these days, and you will for many decades to come. You hear about strange stories about people in Britain, for example, or Australia being arrested for encouraging, let’s say, a protest that they want to get together. That happened recently in Australia, where a woman wanted to protest the shutdown that was happening in Australia. And so she posted something on Facebook. She was arrested.

That would not happen in America. The question is why? Why do I say that with such confidence that it would never happen in America? Not like that.

In America we know that the only time you’ll be arrested or somehow penalized for your speech is under three circumstances. One is defamation. And the other is that you are restricted based upon time, place or manner restrictions.  It doesn’t matter what your content is. It’s the way that you are saying it. And the last thing of course is what we call fighting words, encouraging violence. So where you say, “go kill those guys. That’s not free speech. That’s encouraging violence. Those are the three exceptions.

Now, everything else, you know that you have the right to say it. It’s in our system. Somehow when we come to America, as soon as you land at the airport, you know that you are protected, not just by the constitution, in the sense of your rights, but especially when it comes to the first amendment, free speech, your freedom of religion. Why? Why is free speech seemingly different here? You think of democracy and you think automatically that everyone else has free speech the same way we do, but they don’t. You can see that in France or in England and Japan, for that matter. These countries, the government still decides whether that’s too much or too little. Tough luck.

In many ways, free speech is like your right to drive on the road. Sure. You can go whenever you want, and for as long as you want, but you got to obey all these rules, stay on the right side of the road, stop at the stop signs and travel only so fast. Not so when it comes to free speech in America. Very different. Why? Why is it so critical, so obvious to all of us, that free speech  in America is a very unique animal? There’s only one reason: because in America we believe that the right to free speech comes from God. That is why. In all the other countries that I mentioned free speech is something that the government allows you to engage in. That’s it. And if it’s the government that allows you to engage in free speech or gives you the right to free speech, the government can take it away and the government can curtail it the way it pleases. That’s the difference. Without God, we do not have free speech, certainly not in the way that we appreciate and love it in the United States.