• Benjamin Smith

Protecting Your First Amendment Rights

The first amendment of the United States Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” As a Christian and son of a Baptist preacher, I have always celebrated the First Amendment because I have the freedom to worship without fear of government interference. Today, I am afraid that some have taken the freedoms of the First Amendment and desired it to be for only one faith... Christianity. As a Christian, I celebrate my faith in Christ. As an American, I realize that the First Amendment applies to other faiths as well. All religions are protected under the First Amendment. All religions have the same rights that I do. If we tear away the rights of any religion or faith other than ours, we run the risk of tearing down our own freedoms with it.

I am disturbed to find that Tommy Stringer does not seem to believe in protecting the First Amendment rights of everyone. Back in May, he wrote a blog post on his website about a documentary being provided through the Peace Center called “Hail, Satan.” In his blog post, Tommy seemed frustrated that certain other religions should have the same rights as Christians. He stated “The Satanic Temple was formed as a grass-roots political movement in 2013 to protest Christian influence in government. They gained notoriety protesting the installation of Ten Commandment monuments at the state capitols in Oklahoma and Arkansas. They won by using the tactic of outrage. They insisted that they have the right to put up a statue of Baphomet, an occult goat deity, if the Ten Commandments stayed. No mention was made of how a goat had any influence over how our laws developed over the past three thousand years.”

First off, the United States of America was not founded three thousand years ago. We are only a couple hundred years old. Secondly, we are not a theocracy. The First Amendment grants freedom of religion (again, all religions) but it does not give power to one religion to rule over everyone. I am sad to see that Mr. Stringer does not uphold the Constitution when it comes to religion. It’s upsetting to realize that he would want to delegitimize the rights of any religion.

Not only did Mr. Stringer rail against the constitutional rights of a different religion, but he also threatened to cut taxpayer funding to the Peace Center by saying “the Peace Center receives funds from a variety of prominent Greenville corporations, individuals, as well as tax-funding from the SC Arts Commission. During this long economic recovery, maybe those donors should reconsider the community value of Hail, Satan? and ask if such films add or subtract to making Greenville a great place to live. I know that I will when voting on our revised state budget this September.” I would like to point out that this documentary was not forced upon anyone to view. It was merely made available to the public. Yet Mr. Stringer has threatened to pull funding for the Peace Center which has provided music, comedy shows, documentaries, Broadway hits, and so much more to Greenville for 30 years. It has been an economic boost to downtown Greenville. According to their website, the Peace Center “generates an estimated $42MM in annual economic activity.” Cutting any funding would be a disservice to Greenville and the state of South Carolina as people often visit from out of state for Broadway shows at the Peace Center.

We can do better. We can protect First Amendment rights for all, and we can elect a representative who will not threaten to pull funding from not-for-profit organizations when they produce material that is different to his beliefs. I will be that representative. I will fight for First Amendment rights for Christians, non-Christians, and all religions and faiths.


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