In defense of Orso’s right to speak out

By Jeremy Fejfar, August 16, 2009

This is a response to Charles Panten’s letter (Aug. 5 Tribune), in which he criticized Joe Orso’s column that compared the United States’ use of an atomic bomb to kill civilians to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Pantin advises Orso to do the following: leave the country if he doesn’t completely agree with past political and military decisions and to not disgrace fallen soldiers by exercising his freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech (and of the press) protects all speech, not just speech Panten happens to agree with. It would be ridiculous to have a constitutional amendment that only protects popular speech, or newspaper articles that nobody disagrees with. The first amendment is meant to protect unpopular speech, because it is this kind of speech that some people seek to suppress. This same freedom allows Pastor Fred Phelps to protest with signs that read, “Thank God for dead soldiers,” “God sent the IEDs” and “God hates America.” While I disagree with Phelps’ antics, I would never advocate taking away his right to free speech.

Orso made use of the freedoms that you and your brothers in arms so valiantly defended, Mr. Panten. You may disagree with his opinion, but you should feel pride that he can express his view freely, and you certainly shouldn’t advise him to leave the country simply for exercising his right. What is the value of a right if you are not free to exercise it?

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