Mar. 30, 2019
Subject: American Leftism Part 3: When Trying to Censor Free Speech – Take Lessons from History
Acts 4:18 “They called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”
Surrounded by college students, President Trump signed an executive order to restore free speech on our college campuses. He explained why it is necessary for the President of the Unites States to step in and threaten to remove government funding if leftist university officials continue to censor students’ rights.
“As universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many are increasingly hostile to free speech and to the First Amendment. Under the guise of “speech codes” and “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings,” these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity, and shut down the voices of great young Americans like those here today. All of that changes starting right now.” He’s right – our freedom of speech is an American virtue, historically grounded in two famous founders.
In September of 1789, James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, that detail your inalienable rights promised from the God of the Bible that no government can take away.
The First Amendment was known as Freedom of Religion, Speech and the Press: “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.” This is your God-given right. It does not come from men.
Founding father John Quincy Adams credited Jesus Christ with our right to free speech: “Jesus Christ… came to teach and not to compel. His law was a Law of Liberty. He left the human mind and human action free.” Stephen Cowell, an early America legal writer, agreed: “Nonconformity, dissent, free inquiry, individual conviction, mental independence, are forever consecrated by the religion of the New Testament.”
President Trump singled out one college student, Polly Olsen, to explain her censorship on campus: “With us today is Polly Olson, a student at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Polly was handing out homemade Valentine’s Day cards with messages such as ‘You are special’ and ‘Jesus loves you.’ College officials stopped her and told her that she would be restricted to a ‘free speech zone’ because some might find her cards offensive. I don’t. I love that card. In fact, Polly, give me some. I’ll send them to my friends.”
Polly had this to say: “Within 15 minutes of setting foot on my campus this past year, I was told that I was soliciting and disrupting the learning environment and that I would have to stop handing out my valentines. I told them I’m not going to be quiet this time. Without freedom of speech, we don’t have America anymore. I challenge America to learn to love one another as Christ did on the cross for each one of us. People should not be afraid to express their beliefs. It’s our right. It’s our freedom.”
Our verse this week comes from Acts chapter four, where the local authorities tried to censor Peter and John for speaking publicly about Jesus Christ, as 5,000 listeners came to trust in Christ from their speech. We begin in verse 5: “The rulers, elder and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest… gathered together at Jerusalem, set them in their midst, and asked them ‘By what power or by what name have you done this?’
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to the helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here whole… Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived they were uneducated and untrained men, they realized they had been with Jesus.”
Verses 17-18 explain that because of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, their free speech was being censored: “’So it spreads no further, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.’ They called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” Verses 19-20 contain Peter and John’s response: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge. We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.”
Verse 21 shows the impact Peter and John had on their culture: “When they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.” No one can take away your free speech right to tell others about Jesus Christ.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.