As reported by the Charlotte Observer and others, a billboard created by the Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics was recently vandalized. The billboard, pictured above, quoted the original phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance — “One Nation Indivisible” — before “under God” was inserted after “one nation” in 1954. The sign, which went up about a week ago, was controversial for its message and for its location along a road named for Billy Graham, the Charlotte-born evangelist who preached to hundreds of millions worldwide. The Pledge was written in 1892 by a Baptist minister, but it included no religious language until “under God” was inserted by an act of Congress at the height of the Cold War.
The Institute for Creation Research put out a message affirming that the vandalism is wrong, but with insufficient conviction:
“While vandalism should not be condoned, these recent events shed light on what some Americans will do when they feel that their freedom of speech is threatened.”
Let’s be clear. Absolutely no free speech rights are threatened by the billboard. Indeed, the billboard is an obvious example of how speech rights work in a free society. The Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics are free to put up the billboard. Those who disagree with its message are free to speak against it or even to put up a countering billboard. Simple. The ICR should have sat this one out.
Not to be outdone, World Net Daily published a commentary by Chrissy Satterfield that’s even worse, hard as that may be to believe. Entitled My Kind of Vandals, the piece gives lip service to the idea that vandalism is wrong, but it’s clear that Satterfield has other ideas in her heart: “Never would I encourage vandalism, but in this case I think I’ll let it slide.” Indeed, Satterfield goes so far as to say that “[i]t’s nice to know that I am not alone in my beliefs and that some people are still willing to stand on the right side of truth.” Last I checked, truth didn’t require vandalism. She even makes this nonsensical claim: “We will only take so much before we stand up against our oppressors.”
Let me say this as clearly as I can. Speech isn’t oppression. The answer to speech one doesn’t like is more speech. It isn’t censorship. It isn’t vandalism. It isn’t threats. Speaking the truth in love should always be good enough. It was good enough for Jesus and should be good enough for the rest of us too.