Evelyn Beatrice Hall (aka S.G. Tallentyre) in her 1906 biography of Voltaire wrote “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This phrase, often misattributed to Voltaire himself, has been used over the past century to represent a concept that is central to life in a peaceful, democratic society.
The United States codified free speech in the First Amendment, making it the foundation of many of the other rights to follow. Mr. Hensley, my high school Civics teacher, explained the rights and responsibilities of free speech to us and how we should not abuse them, summing it up by saying – “your rights end where the other fellow’s nose begins” – a homespun version of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s “your rights end where mine begin.” The lesson was that in practicing our right to speak freely, we should not do so in a way that forces others to remain silent. Everyone deserves a turn on the soap box and to live in peace and prosper regardless of their personal, religious, and even political beliefs.
The recent spat of mayors (Chicago, Philly, Boston, etc.) stating that Chick-Fil-A should be denied business permits because of their religious beliefs is a blatant violation of Chick-Fil-A’s commercial and religious rights that will certainly be litigated if these threats ever become actions. By making these threats, these politicians – all Democrats – are obviously pandering to a certain electorate and probably have no intention of following through on their “promises” – which most politicians never do anyway. What they are actually trying to do, which cannot be litigated, is 1) divert attention away from the poor state of the economy during an election season for the benefit of their incumbent and 2) instruct the populace that using the power of government to further bigotry is OK when someone disagrees with you.
Luckily, the American people haven’t been fooled and neither of these objectives has been reached. The people see through the political pandering and are judging these mayors, and their supporters in the media, by the lack of tolerance they have displayed against a very large segment of the population. The American people realize that if corrupt politicians can deny rights to one group, the next victim of government persecution could easily be them.
In their zest to garner support from one small community of voters, these mayors have insulted and alienated an aggregate community whose beliefs are similar to Chick-Fil-A’s. In short, they have awoken a rather considerable sleeping dragon who now judges them by their intolerance, not by their views.
As Mr. Hensley might have said, “boy, you’ve done shot yourself in the foot.”
Follow @JohnLibertyUSA on Twitter as I chronicle the effects of spicy chicken and waffle fries on my mind and body during 30 days on a #ChickFilA Diet.