Know your rights

in Opinion by
The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Clarion, its staff or the institution. If you would like to submit a response or an opinion piece of your own, please contact clarion@bethel.edu.

A right to speak doesn’t equate a right to be heard.

By Bryce Wisnewski

Regular readers of The Clarion are familiar with the exchange of political opinion between columnist Samuel Krueger and Kailyn Hill.  In the Oct. 18 issue of The Clarion, Krueger wrote “Evangelicals aren’t lost,” which some considered to be a response to Hill’s article, “What would Jesus do?” which had previously responded to Krueger’s Sept. 14 article on DACA.  

In a Letter to the Editor ‘It’s OK to admit mistakes,’ Ashwani Chumber claims it was a mistake to publish Krueger’s column because it violated the Clarion’s Opinion Policy, and that Hill is being done an injustice by not being allowed to respond to his response.  Chumber states:

“Why put a rule in place if each member of the team will not be held up to that standard? Why let Krueger write a response to a response and then not allow Hill to do the same? It’s her first amendment right to be able to do so. Why let him express his right but hold her back from doing the same?”

I am not writing in defense of Krueger or Hill, nor am I writing to discuss the rules of The Clarion.  Whether or not Krueger’s column should have been published is up for debate. If you think it should not have been, then whether Hill should be able to respond to him depends what you value more – fairness or the integrity of the rules.

What I am addressing is Chumber’s claim that Hill and Krueger have a First Amendment right to be published in The Clarion. Chumber conflates a right to speak with a desire to be heard, and in doing so misinterprets the Constitution of the United States of America.  The First Amendment states:

“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.”

The First Amendment clearly grants people the right to speak freely, but this freedom is not what most people think it is.  As in Chumber’s piece, the First Amendment is often understood to mean that any person has the right to say whatever they want, and to be heard.  This is wrong.  The First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law.”  The first amendment is only applicable to your freedom from government censorship.  Initially it only applied to the federal government.  State and local governments were not even required to grant such freedom until the Incorporation Doctrine in 1897.

To this day, the First Amendment only applies to government and those acting as representatives of said government.  Private entities have no obligation under the First Amendment to grant you freedom of speech.  As a private media outlet at a private institution, The Clarion is independent of the government and therefore, the First Amendment.  It is in no way required to publish you, consider your thoughts or even listen to you.  People are often left unpublished and unheard in the United States and there is nothing unconstitutional about it.

This issue reaches beyond our school newspaper. Many people turn to the framework of the United States to justify themselves without reading what it says.  As American citizens it is our duty to know how our country works.  So, the next time you think your rights are being infringed upon, do not assume that you are right.  Research what your rights include.  If you do not like what you find, take it up with your local representative, or petition the government.  That is your right. But before making a claim, be informed.

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