Thursday I caught, quite by accident since I don’t listen to “Christian” radio, Chuck Colson’s program “Break Point.” He was ranting in his trademark Colson-ish way about Apple’s decisions to pull the Manhattan Declaration iPhone app in December and the Exodus International app this month.
Colson called for Christians to protest this decision by Apple, labeling the company’s action as an attack on free speech, stating,
“For the sake of religious liberty and free speech, we must not remain silent. Not on this issue, or on any issue that would threaten free speech and freedom of religion.”
Chuck Colson is wrong.
Apple is an independent company, not a government agency. The government is required by the Constitution to protect free speech and freedom of religion. Private companies and individuals are the beneficiaries of these freedoms, not enforcers.
Government protections on free speech guarantee independent private businesses and individuals the legal right to make their own decisions about what they and will not do, who they will employ and support, and with whom they will and will not associate. Government protections on freedom of religion guarantee that each of us free to worship or not to worship as we see fit, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, or anything else.
Apple is exercising the same freedom that Christian businesses, organizations, and individuals treasure.
We want businesses like Chick-fil-A to have the freedom to close on Sundays, employ whom they chose, and to build charitable foundations such as WinShape, which are legally allowed to review requests “to determine if the program content is consistent with WinShape’s philosophies and values” and deny requests that are not consistent.
We want our private Christian schools to have the freedom to only employ staff who agree with the school’s theology and comply with lifestyle policies, and to set requirements for admission of students that reflect standards of thought and lifestyle.
Free speech means the freedom to say whatever you want to say, whether other people like it or not.
If we truly value these freedoms, we must not to attack them when others use the same freedoms to express disagreeing views.
The Supreme Court reinforced this definition in their recent decision on Westboro’s abhorrent signs at funerals. As Alana Goodman wrote on Commentary, “The price of free speech is that we have to put up with the worst of it.” As badly as I despise Westboro’s message as hateful and utterly mis-representative of the God I love and serve, they do have a constitutional right to say it.
Free speech means that those whose ideology and lifestyle choices are different or counter to ours also have the freedom to talk about those choices. They are free to decide what they will and will not support, what they will say, and with whom they will associate.
We must not demand freedom of speech for ourselves and in the same breath deny it to others. To do so is to attack free speech for all.
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