Before anyone gets up in arms and throws this newspaper in the trash, let me just say that "freedom of speech" is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This amendment also covers the right to freedom of religion and the expression thereof. It doesn't matter whether or not one practices a specific religion or none at all, what matters is that each of us has the right to practice the religion of our choice without being subjected to interference or discrimination by another.
I realize not everyone will agree with me. So to those I ask, why does having a symbol of a cross on the Steubenville, Ohio logo offend anyone? What is the problem with having a Mosque in downtown New York City or in any other city or town in the United States? Individuals have the right to worship and practice their chosen religion in this country as they please so long as they are not breaking a law. Just because there are people (such as those who flew planes into the towers in New York City) who do bad things, doesn't mean that everyone who practices that religion is a bad person. Our freedom to express our beliefs should be just as sacred as practicing them.
Dan Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A made a comment recently that he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. People from all over, even non-people such as "The Muppets" have gotten involved with this fight. The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, spoke out almost immediately saying that the Chick-Fil-A fast food restaurant should not be located in Chicago because "it does not represent the values of Chicago."
Really Rahm? The values of Chicago? What values exactly? Could it be the fact that the violent crimes in the city of Chicago are twice that of the rest of the country combined? Maybe it is the fact that the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in the city of Chicago is 1 in 94.
Let's do a little comparison, Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sunday - those darn employees are probably practicing some sort of religious activity on that day - that sure doesn't represent the values of Chicago with its murder rates making it the sixth most dangerous city in the entire country. I did some research and you know what I found, there are gays and lesbians working at some of the Chick-Fil-A restaurants. Wait, I'm sure there must be some fire somewhere if there is so much smoke. Maybe I better keep looking for something in all fairness to Mayor Emanuel - but, I just can't seem to find any evidence of discrimination against gays by Chick-Fil-A. I wonder what their values really are?
Could it be that the president of Chick-Fil-A and the community leaders of Steubenville, Ohio just believe in Christianity and, dare I say, God? Could it be that every time a piece of currency crosses the counter at a Chick-Fil-A restaurant or comes through in a collection plate at one of the many houses of worship in Steubenville it has the words "In God We Trust" emblazoned on it?
We sing songs asking God to "bless America" and at the end of every political speech, radio address, and/or campaign venue the President and President wannabes (whether Republican or Democrat) choose "God Bless the United States of America" as their last line to the rowdy applause and cheers of those listening. Have we become a nation where God is no longer a part of our life, but merely a part of the divide? Has it gotten to the point that by easing God out of our lives we can go about looking at things without compassion or guilt for our wrongdoings?
When we take away the freedom of expression, the freedom of speech, the freedom to worship - or not, we take away a piece of who we are as a nation. When the gunshots were fired in the theater in Aurora, Colo., those victims prayed and millions of others prayed and are still praying for them today.
I know there are those who have chosen to believe in evolution versus creationism, and that is fine with me, I'll pray for you too. Because after all, we live in a country that was built on the strength, perseverance and dedication of individuals who suffered and fought for their right, and ours, to free speech and freedom of religion - whatever that religion might be - even if it is none at all.
I like Chick-Fil-A sandwiches, and while I may or may not agree with Dan Cathy's belief on marriage, I absolutely agree that he has the right to speak his mind on the subject. And while I understand the need to separate church and state, I believe that churches, steeples and crosses are a part of this country's landscape, and to hide them away because there are atheists or agnostics who don't participate in a structured religion goes too far.
If it is the right thing for a president to ask that "God Bless America" then why isn't it right for those who believe in God to say the same, besides, in God I trust.
Have a great day.
Vicki D. Westling is a Dunkirk resident, published author and an advocate for children and freedom. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org