Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment’

Bill of Rights — Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

This is almost all I can think about this evening, watching the Iran news pour in via Twitter and CNN.  It’s mesmerizing. It makes me even more grateful for our own First Amendment – the Amendment by which I’ve been granted the right to make a living all these years, in helping others to tell their story and to communicate the messages important to them and their audiences.

But some people who are Twittering tonight are sending some disturbing – and, IMHO (in my humble opinion), quite ignorant messages.  There is a category of people who don’t know why we should care about what’s happening in Iran.  There is another category of people who are harshly criticizing President Obama for not speaking out earlier, and with stronger statements.  And then there are those who are making fun of the whole thing, rediculing it with satire and off-color jokes.

I don’t want to think Americans in general are so ignorant of history – including the history of U.S. involvement in Iran –  or current events, but perhaps that is something these people share in common.  I am more than gratified to see yet another category of people Twittering tonight – those who are grateful for their rights and freedoms, and who understand the contrast between what is happening in Iran and the lives we enjoy here.  One person wrote in to remind the rest of us that it was just 40 years ago that our own civil rights protesters were putting their lives on the line, and were greeted with dogs, whips and water hoses. 

As my military friends say, freedom is never free.  And as I’ve said for many years, there are a few things that I feel are worth putting my own life on the line for:  first, my children and grandchildren; second, the First Amendment.

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Wow – my whole weekend seemed to center around one particular theme: What roll does faith play in a private religious institution when it comes to teaching? And the answers have, to my mind, been wonderful
First, this past Friday I sat in on a meeting of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) in Portland, Oregon, just about 25 minutes from my home in Gresham. I listened as the council discussed whether to accredit or re-accredit the communications programs in 25 different universities across the country, some of which are private religious institutions. At first, I was worried: if people did not agree with the religious values and principles expressed by a certain institution, would they still be able to judge the program on its merits? Would they take the stance that a private religious institution has the right to set its own mandates in terms of hiring and firing? Mostly, would the strong concern about diversity – the inclusion of woman and minorities – in both the faculty and the student body of these institutions be met?  Would there be an acceptance and acknowledgement of other cultural traditions?

The discussions were lengthy, deliberative, thoughtful and fascinating, and in the end, I felt like standing up and cheering: the First Amendment is alive and well.  Freedom of religion is definitely compatible with freedom of speech, and academic rigour can still be achieved within the parameters of faith. What a day.

The same point was driven home to me in a more personal way the next morning, when I attended a meeting for adjunct faculty at Marylhurst University, a privatge Catholic university where I’ve been teaching public relations these last few months.  I sat in a circle of fellow adjuncts, and suddenly realized I might be the “odd man out,” so to speak; it seemed as though most people in the room were Catholic from the introductions and conversations.  I’m not Catholic.  Yet from day 1, I’ve been warmly welcomed at Marylhurst without religion or faith entering into any discussion at all;  and everything I’ve done has been met with encouragement and support.  The academic standards are high, and public relations is treated as the separate discipline that it is; those and the reactions of other faculty and staff are the reasons I love teaching there.

I don’t think I’ve been through  a more encouraging weekend on a professional level in a long time.  We seem to be inundated with news about divisivness, conflict, war, and virtriol.  To find such wonderful examples of the First Amendment being alive and well in the space of a single weekend gives me new energy – and a whole new kind of faith in this country that I love.

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