Freedom of speech our most sacred right
Our new nation arose in the 18th century and great men argued about and composed the radical historical document that we call our Constitution. Continental Army soldiers shed their blood as an investment in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that Washington, Jefferson and others penned in the 1780s. Many great and honorable men and women have shed more blood in the years that followed to guarantee that America would be the home of liberty and opportunity. Young men and women go off to serve their country every day and it is the ideals established by the Founding Fathers that inspire and guide their way.
The most sacred of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights commands government to make no laws "abridging the freedom of speech." Braver men than I have often said that even though they disagreed with a particular kind of speech, they would fight to the death the right to say it.
How far we have come when a newspaper columnist is criticized for writing bad news. Newton County school board member Jeff Meadors wrote in a recent Rockdale/Newton Citizen column that among schools in the Joint Development Authority (Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Jasper), Newton County schools come up last in several critical areas. Several days ago, Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Hunter Hall asked Mr. Meadors to stop writing his column for the Citizen. Hall stated that though Meadors' data was accurate, the column was "harmful" to the Chamber and its efforts to secure industries like Baxter International. The position that Mr. Hall espouses would only applaud "good" news about Newton County and the Board of Education's efforts to educate our young people and prepare them to enter the adult world.
Public figures in the area certainly want a better life for our children and strive to create an environment for prosperity, but when they want to ignore the reality and close their eyes, ears and minds to the bad, little will change and industries like Baxter and others may need to find qualified workers from the other three counties.
We see slogans everywhere that tell us, "Freedom is not free," but if we applaud Mr. Hall and not freedom of speech, we may find that freedom is an illusion. Ask someone who fled the Iron Curtain countries to come to America. God bless the USA and the free speech we inherited because of the dreams and sacrifice of others.
-- Virgil Costley Jr.