Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Dear Conservatives: Do You Really Believe in Free Speech?

How is it that your logic and expressed values completely go out the window the minute the flag comes out?

I have to admit, I’m not understanding the consistency of your logic, conservative friends.

While our country is facing a string of catastrophic natural disasters and seems to be edging closer to the brink of nuclear war, the President is spending his time cursing and denouncing NFL players who do not stand during the national anthem.

It’s truly an inexplicable and twisted prioritization of issues. As so many of you jump on board with this national distraction, it also reveals a deep inconsistency in the supposed belief system of an “American patriot.”

As conservative American patriots, you claim to love America above all others. I used to be one of you, in every way you can imagine.

I believed in our freedoms. I believed those who hate us, hate us because of those freedoms, and I believed that people’s attitudes toward America should be “love it or leave it.”

I was just like so many of you who consider yourself American “patriots” today.

However, as I have watched Trump’s rants on twitter– cursing black athletes who take a knee during the national anthem, calling one’s mother a bitch, and his insisting that the NFL should fine or fire anyone who doesn’t “respect the flag,” I am reminded once again why I no longer belong to the roaring crowd of professing patriots.

You see, what’s clear to me is that you love our freedom– right up until the point that people actually use it.

Furthermore, in situations like this you prove you don’t really believe in free speech at all– because you can’t say you believe in free speech, but also believe in compelled speech.

We often frame first amendment as having the freedom to speak your mind and say whatever you want. The concept of free speech is often seen as the freedom to actively say something– it’s framed as freedom to take action, instead of freedom to take inaction. What we forget is that the freedom of speech isn’t always about saying something. What is equally true is that the freedom of speech is also a freedom to say nothing at all.

Conversely, when we describe the next part of the first amendment– the freedom of religion– we often describe it as the freedom to do, or not do something.

We don’t simply say, “I have the freedom to practice my religion” but would also say, “you cannot force me to practice yours.” Case in point: it’s why people lose their shit at the mere mention of sharia law.

Thus, we easily see that freedom of religion means we have freedom from being compelled to participate in a particular religion.

However, when it comes to the issue of free speech, so many of you American patriots who would start a civil war if someone tried to compel you to practice Islam, have absolutely no problem compelling someone to say or express things they do not wish to say or express, when the topic at hand is patriotism.

Here’s what you’re missing and the inconsistency in your own logic: When you say that people should be forced to stand for the national anthem or lose their job, you are in fact insisting that people be forced to express a sentiment or belief they do not actually believe or wish to express.

This is compelled speech. It is using force and coercion to make someone express something they do not want to.

All this brings us to a legitimate question, conservative friends: Do you really believe in the first amendment? Do you really believe in the freedom of speech and expression?

Because when it comes to religion, you rightly have a visceral reaction to even the slightest hint that you might be forced to express something you don’t want to express. You see the freedom of religion as including freedom from having to participate in any religious expression you don’t want to.

And you know what? You’re right on that count. In fact, I don’t know anyone who would remotely disagree.

So– and here’s the kicker– why is it, that when it comes to the freedom of speech and expression during our national anthem, you no longer believe that it’s wrong to force someone to express something they don’t want to express? How is it that your logic and expressed values completely go out the window the minute the flag comes out?

Because if you *really* believed in the freedom of speech and expression, you’d also be firmly against compelled expression.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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35 Responses

  1. I wish Mr. Corey would tone it down on the patronizing “conservative friends” stuff. One of the problems with the political debate in our country is the incessant desire to divide people into two opposing tribes and ascribe a singular position to people in the other tribe in order to more easily refute the other group. There is no one conservative position on the myriad issues in the NFL/Kapernich/Trump kerfuffle. So what’s the point in calling out all conservatives right up front? Why not call out the particular position he disagrees with and take issue with it. Using the latter approach dials things down a notch and doesn’t raise people’s hackles unnecessarily. Readers would be more likely to give his opinion a fair hearing rather than immediately think “He’s attacking my tribe.”

  2. Simply, for the same reason you would presumably support a person being fired from a network if they disparaged black or LGBT people on air. It isn’t difficult to understand… one can support a person’s legal, constitutional right to say whatever they want, while believing that their company ought not finance or fund their offensive speech.

    By the way, what happened to your love of free speech when it comes to the President’s choice words about the sons of bitches that don’t kneel? Is your love of free speech similarly limited only to those who share your social or political perspective? Trump is being just as much a “patriot” for exercising his freedom of speech, no?

    Kettle, behold pot.

  3. I just want to point out that not standing for the national anthem by itself does not mean disrespect. Just because someone doesn’t acknowledge you or want to be your friend doesn’t mean they have anything against you or don’t respect your rights. It is unwise to make assumptions about other people. Some people just don’t care for socializing as much as others, telling those people that they should stand is very disrespectful to their right to be different from you. Not everyone values friendship and patriotism, some people just want to be left alone. If they pay their taxes and they don’t bother you then please don’t bother them. If you want the American independence to be yourself, then you have to let other people be themselves as well. Also, this article is a bit one-sided, it would benefit from including some conservative perspectives as well.

  4. the President did not curse anybody
    nobody is against free speech that I know of
    the nfl is a bad organization to start with as they are taxpayer supported, therefore ALL players should stand and respect the anthem
    they can protest on their time
    this is NOT a free speech issue

    1. See, this is where some conservatives start to look bad. You stereotyped all people who don’t stand as being “disrespectful” without realizing that not all people who don’t stand are intending disrespect. Some people just don’t care about the troops or patriotism, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as they pay their taxes and don’t bother anyone. Some people are less friendly than others, they haven’t done anything to anyone and most of them never will. Some people are simply different from you. How would you like it if a bunch of liberals told you to be just like them or you’re fired. Now you know how we feel (I’m not a liberal though). People need to stop taking other people’s behavior so personally.

      1. sorry , never in my comment do i use the ghetto term “disrespectful”
        the nfl can set its rules ,
        when they stop taking public money then they can do as they wish until then the boys need to stand

  5. Conservatives are not against free speech. This matter is not about stopping free speech. It is about time place and manner. People oppose the kneeling because they see it as offense to our Country. Furthermore, the constitution applies only to the government. An employer can limit free speech in the workplace. The football players are at work, and the NFL could, if they chose to, order them to stand. The NBA does it. They all stand at the anthem. No one is claiming the NBA is violating the player’s right to free speech. Think about this…what if a player wanted to stencil John 3:16 on his jersey, or under his eyes the way Tim Tebow did…the NFL could order the player not to do that. Would that be a violation of his right to free speech, or religion? No, because employers can ban that type of speech in the workplace.

  6. I’m not about forcing anyone to do anything but if you’re going to disrespect the flag, police officers, past and current military personnel, the country, then I’m not going to respect you by paying your salaries and so I use my freedom of speech to boycott the games..

    1. Not all people who stay seated are intending disrespect for America. Just making sure you knew that. Forcing people to stand is in fact forcing them to do something 100% subjective
      and that contradicts the American value of independence.

  7. Conservative “free speech” tends to disparage and deny reality. It’s generally based on lies/fabrications and is aimed at trying to disrespect, obfuscate, excoriate and denigrate. Accusing President Obama of not being born in this country and demanding his birth certificate and of being a Muslim are perfect examples of conservative “free speech.” All lies, but the mainstream media reported it ANYWAY! . Claiming Civil War generals as heroes and overtly worshipping immoral beliefs in human beings as chattel are expressions of “respect for southern heritage” and more examples of conservative free speech meant to deny reality. Liberal “free speech” does not denigrate or shade reality. It’s this aspect of so-called liberal free speech that makes conservatives go ballistic whereupon they start inventing even more lies and fabrications to support the lies they originally concocted. Look at FAUX “news” anytime.
    .
    donald trump as U.S. President DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to say what HE wants, when HE wants, to whomever HE wants. His “free speech” rights are abrogated and dictated by his position as U.S. President. He is NOT a dictator … yet! He can’t say just any ol’ thing. Anyone who doesn’t understand the difference between trump, the private citizen, and trump the U.S. President is an ignorant fool, likely a white male, who arrogantly believes he is right and anybody who doesn’t look like him, is wrong. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1919 ruled, unanimously, that the 1st Amendment protects freedom of expression but DOES NOT protect dangerous speech, i.e. you can’t yell “fire” in a theatre (which is what this ruling came from). So trump calling for these young men to be fired is not dangerous speech, perhaps. But it’s out of place and should not come from the mouth of a U.S. President.
    .
    Conservative “free speech” is hurtful, unhealthy, regressive…and based on fabrications.
    .
    Liberal “free speech” is helpful, progressive and verifiable.
    .
    Conservatives care about “things.”
    .
    Liberals care about “people.”
    .
    HUGE difference.
    ##

  8. Some, I say some because this isn’t even close to being a consistent conservative position, conservatives aren’t demanding that the players get arrested. They are, at most, arguing that there be appropriate social repercussions. They aren’t saying they shouldn’t have the right to free speech. They are saying that NFL teams have the right to fire players who do things they disagree with. The players are welcome to protest somewhere else.

    Was it compelled speech when liberals tried to boycott Chick-Fil-A because it’s CEO said he was personally against gay marriage? Was it compelled speech when liberals forced Brendan Eich out of his position as CEO of Firefox because he donated to a prop 8 group? Was it compelled speech when liberal activists shut down speaking engagements at universities for right wing speakers? Etc.

    Unless you have condemned liberals for all of these, then your condemnation of conservatives falls flat.

    1. Your comment in a nutshell: We do not want them to express free speech because they are liberal and we do not like liberals. Yeah fire players who disagree with our conservative point of view that would shut them up (sarcasm).
      Question: If conservatives pulled similar stunts on what you mentioned about liberals would you be saying that there should be social repercussions? Probably not because you are agreeing about firing players who take a knee for expressing a viewpoint you disagree with.

  9. The situation demonstrates the difference between prejudice and discrimination and the principle that statistics always applies to data set and never to the datum. A civilized person may have personal reasons to join an uncivilized mob but if I have no knowledge about the person, I will discriminate against the entire group of uncivilized people.

  10. I may disagree with your protest, but I will die for your right to protest. Not sure who said it but we can’t even disagree with a person without Liberals saying that we are against free speech. Free speech is not, nor should it ever be, a synonym for correct speech. To me being a conservative means that I support the constitution, in particular the First Amendment. We all have the right to be on the wrong side of things. Even Conservatives!

  11. Narcissist, the perfect person to fit the name/title was Obama. Some have forgotten that and now want to take pot shots at some one that has actually done something. Of course Obama is now getting his Masters in trying to undermine and sabatage Trump, if you don’t believe that just ask yourself where he is living now. The only ex-president in history to stay in D.C. to undermine his replacement. But that tracks because everything during the Obama administration was Bush’s fault.

    1. This is part of why I keep coming here: for the humor in reading statements such as yours that are so blatantly delusional.

  12. The difference here is that the athletes are at their place of employment. How many employers allow their employees to stage personal protests or demonstrations during working hours at their job site?

    If these athletes don’t want to participate on the ceremony,they should remain off the field until it is over then come out to start the game ( their job).

  13. While I agree with all of this post, we are all reading far too much into Trump’s rants. He cares not one iota about the NFL or who kneels or stands. He is the most masterful manipulator to ever hold the office, and he is playing America (both the Left and the Right) like a finely tuned fiddle.

  14. Respect the Anthem and the Flag. Stand in a certain way and place your hand in a certain way when the Anthem is played. Do not hang the Flag at the wrong angle; do not allow it to touch the ground; make children pledge allegiance to it; scream “desecration” when people use these symbols to criticize the reality of the nation that they represent.

    That’s not reverence. That’s idolatry.

  15. Trump is a mess, he has no regard for women, black and hispanic people, or anybody who is not in his tax bracket. The question is how long will the American people stand and support this foolishness that he represents. I thought no one could top George W, I stand corrected

  16. I’ll answer the question for the creatues referring to themselves as conservatives: No we do not believe in Free Speech for other people then ourselves!
    Having answered the question for hypocrites the following:
    Those referring to themselves as conservatives but in fact are equals to the national-socialists indoctrinated by the principles of adolf hitler and his scumbags are not interested in anyone’s opinion simply because they regard their own opinions as been given to them by their god! And as these fools are regarding their imaginative god as being unable to be wrong their opinoons are never wrong, according to their idiot logic !
    The fact that people kneel when the national anthem is sounding is because these people are considered by the conservatives as sub-humans, regardless of the People kneeling are Black, White or any other skin-color or minority!
    The flag and the national anthem of the United States of America does ot stand any longer for honor, respect and bravery, both represent at the moment dishonor, disrespect and cowardness!
    With Trump and his peer nazis in the White House no one respects America, no one feels honored and no one feels anymore to be an American! All feel sickened, all feel like throwing up when they see and hear the representative of filth, insults and lies!

  17. The American flag has become a graven image. Simple enough. If they can square that away in spite of holding Old Testament law over everyone else, then sadly they’ll never understand the rest of the hypocrisy their extreme patriotism is wrought with.

  18. Benjamin Corey: Here is what Trump actually said at a rally in Alabama: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field now. Out. Out. He’s fired!'” Trump is allowed to have an opinion, and I happen to agree with him. He is not saying he will propose legislation to enforce this. He is just expressing his opinion that you should honor our flag despite your politics. You echo the absurd, frankly stupid, criticism of Trump when you state: “While our country is facing a string of catastrophic natural disasters and seems to be edging closer to the brink of nuclear war, the President is spending his time cursing and denouncing NFL players who do not stand during the national anthem.” Don’t you think Trump can express an opinion AND also deal with North Korea and the hurricane aftermath? I think so. I don’t care about athletes’ politics. When I tune into a sports event, I want to see the sport and not any political commentary.

  19. All should read 18 U.S. Code Sec. 227 (Wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions by a Member of Congress or an officer or employee of the legislative or executive branch) & 18 U.S. Code Sec. 241 (Conspiracy against rights). It is a Federal Felony to wrongfully influence a private entity’s employment decisions as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did in regard to the ESPN Sportscaster who tweeted that 45 is a White Supremacist, and by 45 (the current principal resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC) in regard to NFL players kneeling, not standing, or, standing and raising a clenched fist. All those who agree with 45 or Secretary Huckabee Sanders, or collectively agree with any person who agrees with them, and petitions ESPN or the NFL to fire their employees commit the Federal felony of conspiracy against rights and face arrest under 241. Mrs. Huckabee Sanders faced arrest and charges from the moment she voiced her remarks from the White House Press Room podium. 45 becomes indictable upon his impeachment or the end of his term. Peace. Out.

  20. i have a question.
    In order to present one’s business as marketable, respectful, unified, etc., does an owner have a right to curtail freedom of expression and require a code of conduct for his employees? I would think so.

  21. I think you mean Republicans. And, no, they don’t, but, again, Trump is not a Republican and certainly not a conservative.
    As a leader of such people who read this blog, you should be less ambiguous concerning your obfuscation. Something about “let not many of you become teachers”, or something?

    You can forgive the layman for their confused speech, but you have a higher duty. To conflate these folks with conservatism just because they might refer to themselves as such is to conflate the term conservatism with something it is not–namely, a term that doesn’t intrinsically allow for free speech (which it does). That, my friend, is on them AND on you. As someone who is attempting to point at the hypocrisy (and rightly so) of the situation, your attempt is awash in dishonesty starting with the title.

  22. It seems freedom of speech is only valid when the topic is religious freedoms or confederate flags and statues. Otherwise, they expect people to sit down and shut up. It doesn’t work that way.

  23. I am only indicating that Freedom is Not Free but you answered my question and told me volumes about who you are.

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