Back when I still worked in the newsroom at the Times-Gazette, our editor at the time gave each of us a card with these words written on it:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Those famous words are of course, the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
I posted that card on the bulletin board by my desk in the newsroom to be a reminder to me of my rights.
Those words are especially important to me for several reasons. I am a Christian and a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe strongly in my freedom to practice my religious faith. I also believe I have the right to speak about my faith in a public forum. Also, I am a columnist, and I have worked as a staff writer for our local newspaper, and I believe in the freedom of the press.
The Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution gives me the privilege to practice my religion and to speak and write my opinion freely.
As Americans we cherish those rights and privileges. We believe in the rights of free speech and religious freedom.
That means that all of us, whether we agree with each other or not, have the same rights.
There has been a lot said recently about the comments made by Dan Cathy, the COO of the fast food restaurant, Chick-fil-A, concerning his personal opposition to gay marriage.
Dan is the son of Chick-fil-A founder, S. Truett Cathy, and he and his brother Bubba Cathy, have followed in their father's footsteps both spiritually and professionally. They are all professing Christians who work in the family business.
There have been public officials in various cities across the U.S. that are saying they won't allow a Chick-fil-A to open in their communities because of what Dan Cathy said.
I personally believe those officials are wrong here.
Times-Gazette staff writer, Mitchell Petty, recently wrote a good column for the T-G on this subject, and he addressed the right that Mr. Cathy had to speak his opinion publically.
Petty said in his column, "It's not the government's place to outlaw a business from entering a market for its stance on any issue. If a Nazi-sympathizing company wishes to open a restaurant, it should be up to the free market and consumers whether or not this eatery will survive. One can only hope that it wouldn't."
Those same public officials would say that they have the right to share their opinions. The U.S. Constitution guarantees their right; and that same Constitution guarantees the right of Mr. Cathy to share his opinion too.
A number of years ago, I wrote a column for the T-G in which I referred to an article in an issue of the magazine NewsMax. The cover story in that issue was "Hollywood's Most Obnoxious: 16 Stars Who Drive America Mad."
The story talked about outspoken Hollywood personalities such as Barbra Streisand, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Michael Moore, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and others, all of whom are far-left-leaning in their political views.
I wrote, "To most conservatives, the views these people espouse are as grating as fingernails scraped across a chalkboard. I don't agree with much of what they say, but I still believe they have the right to say it. But, I want them to let me say what I believe without shooting me down.
"The problem so many people have who stand on their First Amendment rights is they demand their views be heard, but they act like no opposing view should be tolerated."
The freedoms we have as individuals we share with all our fellow Americans.
Dan Cathy, who is a Christian, has the right to share his opinions. So does Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, who happens to be Jewish. And so do Mitchell Petty and Doug Dezotell.
So do you, thanks to the First Amendment.
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.