Comparing Political Platforms (3) Freedoms of Speech and Religion

Why care about Political Party Platforms, especially when it comes to freedoms of speech and religion?  For the Christian looking at politics, a platform is–to a voter–what a Statement of Faith is to a church seeker.  It outlines what the organization believes enough to commit to print.  While the pastor, staff, and parishioners don’t always live up to it, the core beliefs are the standard against which we measure the church’s faithfulness.  Likewise, the political parties state in writing their beliefs.  Will they live up to it?  Probably not. In an imperfect world, both Statements of Faith and Party Platforms guide us and therefore are certainly worth reading before we assume that what leaders promise, say, and do actually reflect the beliefs that have been written.  It’s a yardstick.  Know the platforms and judge the tree by its fruit.

Let’s continue our look at the Political Party Platforms, a series which began with the Preambles of the DNC, Libertarian Party (LP), and RNC.  We continued in Part 2 with Overarching Principles of State vs. Individual Rights.

Today, we’ll look at Freedoms of Speech and Religion, Religious Expression, and Internet Communication.

There are distinct differences in the platforms on these issues.  Please note that I am endeavoring to best summarize ideas without splicing and cherry-picking to convey anything other than their party’s intent, in their own words.

After the chart, I will discuss the principles involved from a Christian worldview, acknowledging right up front that the Internet wasn’t around at the time the Bible was written and Jesus never used it, despite what Abraham Lincoln may have said about the Internet (as the meme goes).

Freedom of Speech, of Religious Expression, and Communication

DNC While freedom of expression is a fundamental constitutional principle, we must condemn hate speech that creates a fertile climate for violence. (p.18 ) We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate (p.19). Democrats… oppose any effort by Republicans to roll back the historic net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission enacted last year. (p.9) We will stand up to Beijing on unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, censorship of the internet, piracy, and cyberattacks. (p.49)
LP We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology. We favor the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. We oppose government actions which either aid or attack any religion.
RNC The Bill of Rights lists religious liberty, with its rights of conscience, as the first freedom to be protected… Thomas Jefferson declared that “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.” Ongoing attempts to compel individuals, businesses, and institutions of faith to transgress their beliefs are part of a misguided effort to undermine religion and drive it from the public square. We value the right of America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith. Republicans believe the federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs, and therefore we urge the repeal of the Johnson Amendment. (p.11) A Republican administration will champion an open and free internet based on principles of free expression and universal values and will pursue policies to empower citizens and U.S. companies operating in authoritarian countries to circumvent internet firewalls and gain accurate news and information online. (p.54)
Why were freedoms of free speech and religious expression important to our founders and where do those show up in the Bible?
freedom of speechFirst let’s acknowledge that the First Amendment has 5 basic, intertwined liberties. 

Each one worthless without the others.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The founders based their view in the important context of not having full freedom in these areas as colonies under the authority of the King of England.

Secondly, they had better Bible knowledge than many of us do today.

And third, the Christian worldview was not under assault then in the same way it is now.

The founders would have known:

Freedom of speech comes with an obligation to show mercy to others.  We will all be judged someday by our words and actions.  James 2:12 “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

The words we use are external, but can clearly reflect what is inside of a person, both Christian and not.  Jesus said, Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

 A Christian’s words should be edifying and our actions godly.  (1 Peter 2:1-17)  Outside of the Bible-believing world, words are different but are every bit as protected by our Constitution.  Even words of which the Christian disapproves may be freely spoken and offered in protest.  Freedom to speak, act, and worship were important contextually because–to the earliest pilgrims–freedom represented why they came to America in the first place.

Unfortunately, apart from defamation, the lie is nearly as protected a form of speech as is the truth.  Lies have been a part of human condition since the serpent first deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden.  And freedom–to eat of any, but not to eat of the tree of life–was a command from the Almighty to Adam.  This God-given freedom of will became twisted by the serpent and all the liars after it.  False prophets, destructive heresies, and shameful narratives have existed with consequences since that time (2 Peter 2:1-21 summarized in verse 21 “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”)

To the Christian, God says our freedom must be limited by our moral conscience.  1 Corinthians 6:12 “Everything is permissible for me”– but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”– but I will not be mastered by anything.”

So what exactly is the concern over things like a government condemning “hate speech”?

As Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once stated,

The Framers of the Constitution knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny.”

While I applaud the DNC’s desire to rid the country of “hate speech,” I thoroughly reject anyone defining what that is by stripping anyone’s freedom to say it.  For example, to the Christian  2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

Some of those scriptures are like this one: Leviticus 18:22 ‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Will this faithful preaching be tomorrow’s “hate speech”?  Who says so?  Who defines “hate speech”?

Or how about this one?  Romans 1: 18 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.”

What about calling out “Allahu Akbar” or a Muslim Adhan (Islamic words broadcasting a morning call to prayer) referring to Muhammad as the messenger?  Will that be no more or less hateful to the DNC than a nativity scene at Christmas, a military chaplain’s service to Christ, or singing Silent Night in the school holiday (i.e. Christmas) pageant?

What is the DNC’s “misuse” of religion and who determines that?

Is it when Christians–to honor their own free worship of God—cannot in good conscience be part of something they believe God finds offensive?  Maybe a Supreme Court authorized gay wedding and the photographer or florist respectfully declining that business and suggesting an alternative for the prospective couple?  Is that adhering to their faith or misusing it?

To Christians and indeed all Americans, these freedoms of speech and religion are pivotal to every other freedom we have.  Take one away and they all fall.

Make no mistake, the words in these political platforms mean specific things to the people writing them.  They are passionate about it; they want to see it legislated (or protected), and enforced.  As a Christian, are these freedoms of speech and religion important to you?  Which Statement of Faith best represents your Christian view?  And when the time comes for you to use these freedoms of speech and religion, will they still be here to protect you?  Or are they here today and gone tomorrow?

* * *

Comparing Political Party Platforms (platforms are source linked in the first article) is a series which began with the Preambles of the DNC, Libertarian Party (LP), and RNC.  We continued in Part 2 with Overarching Principles of State vs. Individual Rights.


Categories Articles, Articles and Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on July 31, 2016

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