Speak Now or Forever . . . Be Forced to Hold Your Peace March 5, 2021 | Richard Harris Your freedom of speech is under attack. You should be concerned – very concerned. Nearly three in 10 Americans surveyed by the Freedom Forum Institute responded that the First Amendment actually goes too far, and nearly eight in 10 believed that the murky concept of “misinformation” is a threat to democracy. In the months after the 2020 U.S. elections, digital media companies worked to silence political speech, blocking access to the sitting president along with scores of political commentators and news outlets. Legacy media companies and their contributors have supported the move to censor politically conservative perspectives. Democrat Congresswomen are even pressuring cable television companies to remove conservative-leaning networks from their channel lineups. A new bill dubbed the For the People Act (H.R. 1, 2021) – recently passed by the Democrat majority in the U.S. House of Representatives – seeks to “reform” elections in this country by regulating almost all political speech. It would require reporting to the federal government a vast amount of communication that “promotes or supports the candidate, or attacks or opposes an opponent of the candidate.” Eric Wang, a senior fellow at the Institute for Free Speech says the 800-page bill is “a censor’s wish list of new burdens on speech and donor privacy.” Freedom of Speech: First for Good Reason Freedom of Speech is enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Our Founders gave it first place for good reason. The freedom to express one’s mind is essential to human happiness. It is essential because self-expression is – by God’s design – a fundamental aspect of who we are as human beings. The Bible says that mankind is made in God’s image and likeness – the imago deo (Gen. 1:26-27). God’s first act was to speak. “And God said, let there be light, and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1-2). He “is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18) and is the perfect expression of the heart of God (John 14:9; Heb. 1:3). To restrict free speech is, by definition, a crime against humanity and an offense to God. Likewise, as those who bear God’s image, we have the unique ability to express our thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Our words convey information, but more to the point, they express our intent and desire to communicate the content of our hearts or minds. As Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). Our ability to speak and express ourselves sets humanity apart from all of creation. It is a defining characteristic of God’s nature within us. Therefore, to bind a person from speaking is to prevent them from fulfilling their imago deo. To restrict free speech is, by definition, a crime against humanity and an offense to God. The Foundation of Self-government According to Founding Father and President James Madison, who is known as the “Father of Our Constitution,” free speech is the foundation of self-government. “Our First Amendment freedoms give us the right to think what we like and say what we please,” wrote Madison. “And if we the people are to govern ourselves, we must have these rights, even if they are misused by a minority.” In other words, if Americans choose not to tolerate speech with which they disagree and permit government or corporations to control and censor speech deemed to be wrong, offensive, or incorrect, we will no longer be a free people. Whoever is most powerful will determine what can be said and our republican form of government will, in reality, no longer exist. “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government,” said Benjamin Franklin, a leading Founding Father and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. “When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.” Without free speech, the people cannot learn the truth, and cannot communicate the truth to their leaders. Without free speech, debate of ideas is impossible, and therefore, self-government becomes impossible. The Magnitude of Leftwing Dominance of Communication Platforms Digital media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and Google (“Big Tech”) are unashamedly restricting speech in ways that should shock the conscience of this nation. The fact that they are not formally connected to the government and therefore not governed by the First Amendment does not alleviate the seriousness of the situation. The essence of the problem derives from the fact that most communications in our society are now based on the internet or cellular phone technology. Social media, cell phone, and TV apps, websites, emails, and texting account for most of the information exchange and public discourse in our world. Yet, that technology is controlled by a small number of people and organizations that share a similar political and cultural worldview. The threat to free speech is illustrated by the recent decision by Amazon to “de-platform” an entire social media app, Parler, ostensibly because some of its users were deemed to be proliferating false information and harmful ideas after the Jan. 6 protests at the Capitol. Technology is controlled by a small number of people and organizations that share a similar political and cultural worldview. Christians should make no mistake. Censorship of biblical truth (or even objectively observable facts) that contradicts the leftist narrative is perfectly justified to the Big Tech overlords. For example, Twitter censored Jeff Johnston of Focus on the Family last month when he dared to define transgenderism in simple terms. In a tweet he posted for the Daily Citizen (published by Focus on the Family), Johnston dared to report: On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden announced that he had chosen Dr. Rachel Levine to serve as Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of HHS. Dr. Levine is a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman. Twitter banned the Daily Citizen’s account because Johnston’s tweet purportedly violated its community guidelines on hate speech. According to Arthur Milikh, executive director of the Center for the American Way of Life at the Claremont Institute, when certain stakeholders – media, education, and business – control speech, they can exercise undue influence over opinion, laws, and court rulings. Take for example, says Milikh, the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage. Media commentators, educators, and other cultural influencers had been indoctrinating Americans about the LBGTQ agenda for a generation. Hollywood, academia, and activists tried to silence “hate speech” from those who held to traditional biblical views of marriage and family. Public opinion had shifted so much over the 20 years since President Bill Clinton’s cynical “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuals in the U.S. military that the court’s ruling was generally well received at the time. “Once this right [to free speech] falls out of favor with a large amount of Americans,” says Milikh, “the courts will then act and, I think, will begin to restrict the freedom of speech.” Online Censorship Influenced the Outcome of Joe Biden’s Election In a recent article in Time, liberal journalist Molly Ball documents that in the 16 months leading up to the 2020 election: [A] well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information. Throughout her article, Ball claims the cabal was “defending” and “protecting” the election. Evidently, Ball believes that censorship is an acceptable method for “fortifying” an election, as she also admits, “[The cabal] successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against misinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears.” Al Perotta, writing for The Stream, confronts Balls’ spin head on. His Feb. 8 article on Ball’s expose recharacterizes the left wing’s Big Tech censorship: They got their friends in Big Tech to censor stories that violated their narrative. The prime example is the New York Post’s revelations about Hunter Biden’s laptop. And hence the fact that candidate Joe Biden had blatantly lied about his direct role in the Biden family businesses, including their deals with Communist China. Remember how John Brennan, James Clapper, and other Deep State anti-Trump brokers dropped a letter saying the story was Russian disinformation? Big Tech’s manipulation of online communications by its users was well entrenched before the 2020 Election. In 2019, Dr. Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, testified before the United States Senate about Big Tech’s influence over election outcomes. “His research over the past six years shows that Google via various deliberate manipulations moved between 2.6 million and 10.4 million votes to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.” Labeling Differences of Opinion Sedition Lawmakers who recently challenged the results of the 2020 elections and sought investigations into claims of voting irregularities were called seditious by their critics. Accusations of inciting people to rebel against the government led to blacklisting, including censorship on social media and calls for removal from elected office. Most notably, the scheduled publication of a senator’s book was cancelled until the manuscript was accepted by another publisher who was less hostile. This brings us back to Madison. In 1798, the U.S. House voted to pass the Sedition Act, which punished anyone deemed a threat to the nation or who published “false, scandalous, or malicious writing” against the government. The rival parties of President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson, fought for public opinion in the partisan newspapers of the day. Adams’ Federalists hoped to protect their narrow majority in the House and silence criticism (especially in fear of a potential war with France). According to one Federalist congressman, freedoms of speech and press were actually a hindrance to unity and were a danger to the nation. “What will be the situation of the people?” asked Madison, an ally of Jefferson. “Not free: because they will be compelled to make their election between competitors whose pretensions they are not permitted by act equally to examine, to discuss, and to ascertain.” The law was highly unpopular and was allowed to expire after a few years, but its legacy lives on in the ongoing debate over governmental limits on free speech. Our Society Will Not Survive Without Free Speech According to Madison, eliminating free speech eliminates choice. The self-governed citizens of a republic can only continue in that way if they have freedom to share and listen to different views, information and ideas. If for no other reason, freedom of speech allows Americans to identify what thoughts and ideas are or are not conducive to preserving all other freedoms we enjoy. For America to be free, speech must be free. The fundamental role of government is to protect the God-given rights of the people and the time for government action to defend freedom of speech is now. Learn More Explore the Truth & Liberty website and visit our Research Center for great practical resources. Also, learn how you can become a Truth & Liberty Coalition member and join us in standing for truth in the public square.