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Ben Carson
Ben Carson
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Houston's First Amendment Problem


The recent questionably unconstitutional moves by the Houston city council to subpoena the sermons of five area ministers, as well as internal correspondence dealing with social issues, should have the American Civil Liberties Union and everyone else who believes in free speech and religious freedom up in arms.

We as Americans must guard every aspect of our Constitution and recognize when it is being threatened. One of the great dangers in America today is extreme intolerance in the name of tolerance.

For example, in this Houston case, it is presupposed that the pastors in question may have said something that was objectionable to the homosexual community. In order to prove that we are tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle, we as a society allow gays to be intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them in any way.

Of course, gays should be able to live in any manner they choose as long as it does not infringe on the rights of anyone else. And of course, ministers should be able to preach according to the dictates of their conscience as long as they are not forcing others to listen. This concept of "live and let live" is an essential ingredient of harmonious living in a diverse society. We cannot single out the side we want to castigate for intolerance while letting the other side get away with it without comment.

Perhaps it is time for Americans to take an honest look at what it means to live peacefully in a diverse society composed of people with many different points of view. This requires true tolerance, which includes being capable of listening to people with views that might differ from yours.

Many of us who are Christians have strong beliefs that inform our thinking on many issues, but in no way should those beliefs lead us to demonize or treat others unfairly. The same applies to Muslims, Jews, every other religious group and atheists. When our universities attempt to shield students from hearing the opinions of those with whom the administration disagrees, they are not only being intolerant, but are teaching the next generation those same destructive ideas that will eventually dissolve the cohesiveness of our society and lead to our downfall.

Perhaps a dose of maturity on all sides would put an end to the mindless name-calling and baseless accusations against those with whom we disagree and instead lead to constructive civil discourse.

After all, it often is easier to learn from those with whom we disagree than from those with whom we always agree. Also, conversation erases many misconceptions that drive hatred. That is the reason famed community organizer Saul Alinsky, in his book "Rules for Radicals," stated that you should never have a conversation with your adversaries, because that humanizes them, and your job is to demonize them. When your agenda is to fundamentally change a society, it is a much easier task when you stifle conversation and debate.

Our Founders were very concerned about free speech and religious freedom because they came from countries where these basic elements of American life were compromised. The First Amendment to the Constitution was carefully crafted to preclude the imposition of laws and ordinances that trample on these rights. The Houston issue goes far beyond free speech and homosexual rights. It warns us of what can happen if we are not vigilant in guarding our hard-fought freedoms. Fortunately, a firestorm of immediate protests appears to have at least temporarily rolled back this egregious assault on all Americans, whether they realize it or not.

We can never allow civil authorities to censor or control the content of religious sermons, or we will eventually become a completely different country with far fewer rights than we currently enjoy. Freedom is not free, and those who do not zealously guard it will lose it.

Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book "One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America's Future" (Sentinel). To find out more about Ben Carson and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit




1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... The only reason we have religious privilages written into our constitution was to protect the denominations from each other. After the English Revolution, the Puritans made such absolute asses of themselves that people we happy to see the official Church of England re-establish itself even while this injured many, including the relatively harmless Methodists. Instead of the churches feuding with each other, they have become an enemy of this whole people, and the enemy of our rights. They do not see their privilages as privilages granted and respected by this people, but they believe their privilages are granted by God. Worst of all, these religious people stand with the rich, vote with the rich, and without understanding the relationship between poverty and immorality, they condemn the poor by attacking their morality. This cannot continue on.
Government is that place where a society should be able to talk freely to itself, and with all its members. Government should be a place of reason, where reasonable people meet to find the facts and make rational choices in regard to a desired future in light of those realities. To bring magic and mumbjumbo into the mix; to give irrational people a place at the table of government, and the power to bring down the whole of government if not conducted on their insane terms is pointless. I would rather not exclude anyone from government, but we must admit the insane have no measure of control over their own affairs, and should not control us.
Religion has always been opposed to reason. I can agree that there is very little that most people do that is rational. Even morality is based upon emotion rather than reason, and people moral among themselves can be attrocious to others not of their group. We need reason to bridge that gap between what each thinks is best for themselves, and what people know is best for all. As you say: Strong beliefs that inform your thinking. What if your beliefs, as all beliefs always have; instead, misinform your thinking. Belief is another word for ignorance, plain and simple. children must be taught to believe only because the greatest idiot among them, understanding the basics of science would never on their own believe as they are taught. While magical, which is to say religious thinking- is an element in every childhood and neurosis, without the effort to teach religion as an accepted moral and cultural quality, no two people would ever reach the same conclusion out of their varied ignorance. You teach this nonsense to children inclined by their ignorance to belief, or they would grow out of it, but because they have the right to entertain any ignorant belief is no reason they should be allowed to sit at the same table as the grown ups.
The religious do not need their privilages, and they constantly abuse them to trouble people over their rights. Rights do not rest on privilage, but privilage rests on rights. It is the rights of we the people who made possible the privilages of the rich and of the religious. and to see these privilage turned against rights time and again is an outrage. If God has given these dim bulbs their privilages as they believe, let God defend them; because the people have no reason to defend those who attack them.
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Oct 23, 2014 12:40 PM
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