by Zach Thornton

In his February 25th article " Does Kansas's anti-gay bill violate the First Amendment," Pranaav Jadhav poses this question: "should your opinion help decrease or lessen the fundamental rights of an American because of his [...] sexual orientation?"

This question, along with Mr. Jadhav's response, indicate a misunderstanding of the nature of the First Amendment and of the very values upon which this nation was born.

 Don't believe me? Let's talk a look at the First Amendment of the United States, the first in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights:

"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"

There are several things to note about the First Amendment. Note first who the amendment addresses; Congress. Not individuals, but the Federal Congress of the U.S. Not individual state legislatures, but federal Congress. Mr. Jadhav seems to be off on the wrong foot already, in that the bill in question was one proposed by state legislatures to protect individuals and business owners from legislatures. Not federal Congress addressing individuals. Seems a little outside the scope of the First Amendment, Mr. Jadhav.  

Note next the issues being addressed by the First Amendment — freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of redress.

The bill in question isn't dealing with the press, or assembly, or redress, so those aren't relevant.

Now we just have freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Let's look first at freedom of speech. If anything, this bill protected freedom of speech. "How is that, Zach?," you may ask. Simple, reader. Business owners are individuals with protected free speech. Which means a business owner is free to be as bigoted as he likes, in his speech. I'm not necessarily saying it's a good idea, but that's what free speech is all about. I mean, how much good is free speech if you can only say what's politically correct? Zero.

Then we also have freedom of religion. Again, if anything, this bill protected freedom of religion. Same idea as before. If some business owner has a kooky religion and wants to discriminate, isn't that protected exercise of religion? I'd say so, Mr. Jadhav.

What is more startling about  Mr. Jadhav's article is that he claims, "I am against swaying public policies in a way that challenge the values upon which this nation was born" as justification for opposing the aforementioned bills. Just what values does Mr. Jadhav refer to? Perhaps the right to property, as recognized in the Fifth and 14th Amendments.  Oh, you mean a business is the property of the business owner? And he has freedom to exercise his religion and his free speech with regard to his property? Ok, maybe not those values. Perhaps he means the right to contracts, as upheld by nearly every Supreme Court ruling until 1937? No, not those either?

Perhaps he means that self-evident right of all men, espoused by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. I'm referring to the individual's right to liberty. Liberty from whom? From government intervention, clearly. I mean, Jefferson is addressing the King of England's grievances. No? Property owners don't have liberty to exercise their property as they wish? My mistake, Mr. Jadhav.

Mr. Jadhav's position seems to take us of denial of all of these rights, and the violation of these foundational values and of the very amendment he claims to protect. An individual's choice to practice homosexuality is not what's in question here.

It's an individual's right to pursue happiness with regard to his own property — his business. And that should be protected.

Zach Thornton is a electrical and computer engineering graduate student. He can be reached at opinion@reflector.msstate.edu.

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