Aug. 30, 2011 — It has gotten to the point that everything anyone says is scrutinized to the degree that apologies are expected if someone disagrees or seems offended. What has happened to being allowed to speak your mind without feeling ostracized?
Around Aug. 19, a Florida teacher was suspended by the Lake County School Board for posting on Facebook that he didn’t agree with New York wanting to pass gay marriage laws. He actually said he nearly vomited and if people didn’t like his postbased on Biblical principles to unfriend him. On Aug. 24, the school board reinstated him and exonerated him after a weeklong investigation.
To be clear the suspension wasn’t for the posting but a complaint made against Jerry Buell, which the board had an obligation to look into. Fortunately, the school board took proper action and realized the First Amendment protects the right of public employees to express their personal opinion without fear or intimidation.
The First Amendment has been upheld time and time again in court that people can criticize the government and advocate unpopular thought or ideas others may find distasteful. People can also speak against public policy, and it is hard to say someone is being racist, sexist or using other hate speech just because they do not agree with popular opinion or another’s viewpoint.
Currently, the debate is about same-sex marriage. Many people don’t agree there should be same-sex marriage and think they should be able to say so. The popular culture world has changed. Imagine 40 years ago, a teacher speaking for same-sex marriage would have been suspended and hopefully the same outcome would have had happened — he could say what he believed.
What sets the United States apart from other countries is our right to free speech. It is how we advocate change. Without the 1st Amendment, we would not have pushed through Women’s Suffrage, which is approaching its 100th anniversary, nor the Civil Rights Amendment.
The saddest thing of all, in my opinion, is Internet news sources and liberal newspapers had no trouble reporting that the Florida Teacher of the Year was suspended on Aug. 19, but Huffington Post, for one, has yet to report that Buell is back in the classroom and has been exonerated.
Another question I would like to pose is why does it seem to be OK to go after teachers when they express conservative, Biblical thought, but if they express popular cultural thought, it is honored? College professors who teach at public universities, to which we pay large tuition bills, don’t get chastised for teaching radical “out-of-the-box” thinking. I would never want a professor at a college to stop teaching critical thinking. Some of my professors only made me more grounded in my beliefs. That is at the university level.
As for the K-12 level, teachers should be careful what they profess in the classroom because children are impressionable. However, on Facebook, at rallies, in parades, at churches, teachers should be able to express their beliefs.
As Buell also said on his Facebook, “If one doesn’t like the most recently posted opinion, based on Biblical principals and God’s law, then go ahead and unfriend me. I’ll miss you like I miss my kidney stone from 1994.”
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