There has been a lot of talk lately about our rights to freedom of speech. I’d like to correct some impressions that should have been corrected in school if our schools were doing their job right. Freedom of speech does NOT mean you can say anything you want with without repercussions. The original interpretation has changed quite a bit over the years but basically the idea is that the government can’t arrest you for expressing your beliefs. For example, you can’t be arrested for promoting Scientology or for saying the IRS should be disbanded.
However, freedom of speech does not mean no legal action can be taken against you for anything you say. You can be arrested for yelling fire in a theater. You can be arrested for threatening to injure or kill someone. You can be arrested for coercing (persuading) someone into doing an illegal act. There are a lot of negative things that can happen as a result of the things you say.
And freedom of speech can be used against you too. Look at Rush Limbaugh. He feels his right to freedom of speech gives him the right to call a college student a slut because she believes in a woman’s right to birth control. Then when people were so offended by him and used their freedom of speech to encourage people not to listen to his shows and businesses not to advertise on them he turns into a crybaby and calls those people bullies. Really?
We do have a huge amount of freedom of speech even though there are some limitations. What we have never, ever, ever had was freedom from consequences. What we perceive as acceptable and unacceptable will always be a changing thing but the possibility of consequences for the unacceptable will always be there.
It will always be there especially in a work environment. Thinking your freedom of speech gives you the right to, for example, make sexual comments to your female coworkers will allow your employers to practice their freedom of expression by firing you. They didn’t stop you from speaking. You can speak all you want. You just won’t be employed by them while you do it. Just remember, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.