As the riots in Libya and Egypt continued, and even expanded to other countries in the region, many were proclaiming the cause was a YouTube video someone had posted that denigrated Muhammad. The ensuing argument has drifted into one tributary toward America's practice of ensuring its citizens can engage in free speech. Some have taken the issue in the direction of restricting that speech, while others have forcefully voiced their opinion that freedom of speech should not be abridged. My initial question was, "I wonder if we are witnessing firsthand the beginnings of the decimation of free speech in the United States?"
Perhaps some middle ground opinion on the subject was expressed by others. Some people have stated they believe people have free speech, but should not say things that might inflame others or hurt their feelings. That view maintains the individual has free speech but should self-restrict voicing hurtful, inflammatory words that are known to incite violent behavior. I believe that too; a person may have freedom to say something but perhaps should not say it for a variety of reasons.
In America we have enjoyed a fairly well defined freedom of speech based on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: " 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."
When I am talking about the American freedom of speech, it takes on a special meaning that has been rare in the history of the world; and is rare in many parts of today's world. What I think the American freedom of speech as afforded in our Constitution is "freedom to speak without fear of retribution from the government." That is the reason the burning of the American flag, redacting portions of the Holy Bible, Crucifixes sealed in a jar of human urine are all repulsive and rejected by most reasonable people, but it is still considered free speech in America. However, speaking out against the repulsiveness of the content of that free speech is also consider free speech in America. Rather than people being punished for the content of their free speech, they should be persuaded by reasonable debate to consider alternatives. Repression only allows the growth of totalitarianism.
Actually everybody in the world has the freedom to speak any words that come to mind, but if you had lived in Nazi Germany in the 1930's you might self-restrict that freedom to either speak against Gestapo brutality against Jewish people, or for the humane and equal treatment of the Jewish people because of the retribution of death for each position. In the 1700's in the Colonies you were free to speak your mind against the British King, but there was retribution for doing so; sometimes even death. Our experiment in democracy has changed from the rule of the king to the rule of for and by the people. The people decided we should have freedom of speech without the fear of the government coming after us for punishment.
Obviously, in other parts of the world, that freedom is curtailed by those who are in power and refuse to have anything spoken against them. We fought a Revolution and World Wars to maintain that freedom of speech without retribution from the government. We have grown to believe it is a fundamental right that has been granted by God through the gift of choice He has endowed through His Grace. Can we abuse that right? Of course! But does it deserve the death penalty? My belief is, No! At least not in this world.
The only time free speech and choice will be justified in a death sentence is when an individual continues to say "No" to God's gift of forgiveness and salvation through Christ His Son. Continual rejection of God is a sin. As that choice is voiced throughout that person's life and he continues to voice it through his freedom to do so until he dies, he will face The God, who is a Sovereign God, and at that time a God of Judgment who has already warned us in advance, "The wages of sin is death."