On Popular Opinion and the First Amendment

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that same-sex marriage be a national right. But I’m not going to talk about that. I am going to talk about people’s responses to this.

See, I like this one Facebook page that celebrates Geek-dom. It is not a political page. The Admin of the page has a separate picture album labeled “Admin Pics.” Things he posts here are about the Admin himself and not necessarily the page. In this album, he posted a pic of himself with the pride rainbow overlaying it, along with a statement about how the SCOTUS ruling was a good thing. In his statement, he said, “I accept other people’s opinions, but not hatred,” which was a nice, tolerant touch so as not to alienate people of differing opinions.

Naturally, as popular opinion is in favor of the SCOTUS decision, most comments on this post were in agreement. However, there was one commenter who simply said he did not support anything LGBT+. Nothing more, nothing less. He simply stated a dissenting and unpopular opinion. What truly saddened me was the replies to this comment. People called him a bigot, demanded he explain why he believes what he does, and straight up told him to “unlike this page as we do not appreciate bigoted fools here.” The guy tried his best to explain his position without being hateful and even apologized if anything he said came across as rude and bigoted (it didn’t; he was merely stating his beliefs). People began challenging his beliefs, and after he mentioned the Bible, they tried to convince him he was wrong and turn the whole thread into an argument. It was very disheartening to read.

The Page Admin eventually commented in the thread, telling the original poster that he was entitled to his opinion, and that even though he [the Admin] disagreed with the OP’s opinion, he would respect it as long as the OP respected his, and as long as the OP was not hateful to any other members of the page, he [the Admin] didn’t mind his posting his opinion. It was a very diplomatic and open-minded response.

However, even after the Admin made his comment, people were still posting awful and judgmental comments on this guy’s thread.

My point here is that just because someone has an opinion that differs from the popular one, it doesn’t mean you are allowed to demand their silence. The Page Admin set an excellent example, but very few people noticed it. Many people forget that the 1st Amendment gives people both the Freedom of Speech and the Freedom to Exercise Religion.

The KKK and Westboro “Baptist” group (I refuse to associate them with churches) are both legal organizations, albeit terrible ones. Why is this? Because they have the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly. By telling someone who has a differing opinion than the popular one to shut-up and leave, you are demanding an infringement of their rights. And that is not okay. You can say you disagree with them. You can say you think they are stupid. But you cannot argue with the fact that they have just as much right to state their opinions as you do.

People need to be reminded of this particular quote from Voltaire: “Think for yourselves, and allow others the privilege to do so, too.” They also need to keep this quote in mind: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” (Bunny Trail: Voltaire usually is credited with this quote. While the sentiments of this quote are definitely Voltairian, the exact statement is not. [source])

Alas, I have but one final thing to say: No two people think exactly the same way.  If you were to surround yourself only with people who agree with everything you believe, then one of two things would occur: a) you would find yourself completely alone, or b) you would find yourself surrounded by a crowd of insincere flatterers, mindless mimics, and compulsive liars. The diversity of opinion is truly something to be celebrated!

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