HomeOpinionOPINION: All citizens enjoy freedoms as Americans

OPINION: All citizens enjoy freedoms as Americans

As I sit on my couch on Tuesday morning, July 4, I’m grateful for the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights that make up the first 10 amendments.

Being a journalist, the First Amendment and its right to freedom of speech, expression and a free press is the part that is the most impactful to my work.

Those aren’t the only freedoms that I’m grateful for – religion, self-defense, gather peacefully and a number of others.

While we’re not the only country that has all of these freedoms, but I’m grateful that the country that I live in has these freedoms.

And I’m grateful to those who served in our military over the past 250 years to either gain those freedoms, preserve our freedoms or protect our interests as a nation at some point.

If you’re a veteran who’s served, thank you!

But something else I’m grateful is the fact that no one else can encroach on my freedoms as long as I’m never convicted of a crime and am sentenced to jail time or probation.

We’re all guaranteed these rights, but we need to recognize the responsibility that comes with that right.

For every right that I’m guaranteed as an American citizen, there are about 330 million others who are guaranteed those same rights.

And we get into sticky situations when we feel the need to protect our own rights at the expense of others’.

For instance, more than a decade ago, you may remember a lot of media attention when a congregation of Muslim people wanted to build a mosque in Murfreesboro. Not long after that in a lower-profile situation, another group wanted to build one on this end of the state in Somerville.

Some people at the church I was a member of at the time were discussing the situations, and one of the people said, “We need to make it a law that people of that religion aren’t welcome here.”

There were some wide eyes when I – the youngest person in the room and one who hardly ever spoke during political discussions because I was a sports guy at the time and didn’t pay attention to much else – spoke up and said, “That seems like a mistake.”

And there were seemingly logical reasons for the disagreement to my statement. We were about a decade removed from 9-11 when 19 Muslim extremists brought four airplanes out of the sky, killed more than 3,000 Americans and changed a number of subtle aspects of American life forever.

But when they asked me to explain my thinking, it took me a minute to put it into words, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: The day our government – federal, state or local – can make a law telling a group of Muslim people they can’t build a mosque is the same day our government can tell a group of Christians they can’t build a church.

And that respect of rights applies to all of our rights.

If a book isn’t deemed inappropriate for a public library, then the day government can ban it for anything other than a reasonable expectation of appropriateness within the library is the same day the Bible can be banned from the library or any other public facility.

That’s not a country I want to live in.

I could be wrong, but I doubt that’s a country the men of the 13 colonies fought and died for in the American Revolution.

I’m grateful for my country and the freedoms it allows me to have. We just need to realize everyone else gets those same freedoms too.

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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