One of the greatest contributions of our founding fathers in their creation of the United States was that Americans would always be free to express our opinions publicly without being penalized for doing so. So important was this notion that it was enshrined as one of our fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights. In 21st-century America, however, it is now apparent that freedom of speech, once guaranteed by the First Amendment, will no longer be tolerated.
Last week Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones tweeted “omg” and “horrible” after seeing Michael Sam sharing a celebratory kiss with his male partner on national TV Saturday evening. In retaliation, the Miami Dolphins fined Jones, suspended him, and barred him from participating in any team activities until he underwent sensitivity training. One may not agree with Jones’ tweet, but whatever happened to his right to free speech? It is a dangerous development when certain individuals can choose to play thought police and decide to regulate what opinions others may hold. The Dolphins could easily have said, “While we respect Jones’ right to his opinion, his opinion does not represent those of the Miami Dolphins.” That would have been far more appropriate. Instead, they sent out a message that those who don’t believe what they do are to be punished and their thoughts are to be forcibly changed until they conform to their own. Is this the United States of America or a totalitarian dictatorship? Fanatical extremists punish others for not sharing their beliefs, not Americans who cherish freedom.
All Americans should cringe at the very serious precedent that the Dolphins have set. Those in favor of gay marriage may at the moment find great joy in the way Jones was punished for his statements, but what would happen if the growing trend toward acceptance of gay marriage should suddenly reverse itself? Suppose down the line people start defending traditional marriage more and more, and it becomes once again unacceptable to embrace gay marriage. Will someone who tweets that he’s in favor of gay marriage be willing to be fined, be publicly forced to apologize for his statements, and be sent for sensitivity training until he accepts traditional marriage? And how about other issues? Are we now all to be afraid to tweet, post, or say anything for fear that there will be retribution by someone above us simply because our opinions differ from theirs? I hope everyone sees the very serious danger this development poses to American society. It in fact erodes the very fabric of the Constitution and our American experiment in liberty. When Americans cannot express their opinions freely without punishment, the United States has ceased to be the land of the free.
When Tim Tebow would bow down for a moment of thanks to God after a play that went well, critics all over the place slammed him, and all sorts of negative comments were made about him and his public expression of faith. If Michael Sam has the right to his public expression of love for another man, does not Tim Tebow have the right to public expression of his love for the man Jesus? Or should Tebow’s critics now be fined, suspended, and sent for sensitivity training until they accept and agree with his belief in Jesus? If Don Jones is to be reprimanded, then so must anyone who publicly criticized Tim Tebow. You can’t have it both ways.
We as Americans have always treasured the right to disagree with others, and our toleration of differences and our respect for others’ opinions is one of the concepts that has made America strong and free. Take away that cherished American right and we will no longer be “the land of the free” but “the home of the enslaved.”