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Social Media Warriors and Their Ignorance

A few days ago, a cousin of mine posted a meme on Facebook compelling me to respond. It stated: “June 14, 1943 the Supreme Court ruled that no one can be forced to participate in patriotic rituals such as the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. When you call for an NFL player to be fired, you are calling for the law to be broken. It’s not open for debate. It’s established law.” I explained that this meme was not true. The response was the typical anti-Trump and uninformed logic I have come to expect from the left.

Let’s start with the most obvious of all questions I would have: “So you actually think that some loser in their basement is legally more astute than all of the tens of thousands of civil rights lawyers who, if this were true, would jump on a chance to file suit and make themselves famous?” Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, stated that kneeling players won’t play, period. This is what one would call compulsory respect. So how is it that he has not yet been sued?

Our Constitution sets the foundation for our government and secures our rights. These rights are primarily set to protect us, the people, from government intrusion. Within this premise, there are some limitations when it is applied to the employer/employee relationship. The best example would be your First Amendment right of freedom of speech. In this case, while you can by generally say what you want, you will still have to suffer the consequences for your actions. If you tell your boss to “shove it,” you will likely not have a job.

There is also the religious exemption. Depending on who you are employed by, you may be required to pass a religious test. This came straight from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website: “Religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies are exempt from the federal laws that EEOC enforces when it comes to the employment of individuals based on their particular religion. In other words, an employer whose purpose and character is primarily religious is permitted to lean towards hiring persons of the same religion. This exception relieves religious organizations only from the ban on employment discrimination based on religion. It does not exempt such organizations from employing individuals due to their race, gender, national origin, disability, color, and/or age. Other employers should avoid questions about an applicant’s religious affiliation, such as place of worship, days of worship, and religious holidays and should not ask for references from religious leaders, e.g., minister, rabbi, priest, imam, or pastor.”

There are even limitations on your right to bear arms. Many people have been fired from jobs for carrying firearms at work. Look at the case of Jennifer Wertz. She was working at a Circle K at night when two men came in to rob the store. One of the men pointed a gun at her. She brandished and fired her gun, striking him in the stomach. Even though she was hailed as a hero, she was subsequently fired for violating store policy. Yet the constitution is exceptionally clear, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In some states if a business posts “No firearms allowed,” you can be arrested for violating their policy. The point is that businesses can make many exceptions to our freedoms that the government cannot.

However, in this case, we are speaking specifically about making NFL players stand for the National Anthem. This came from an article written in the New Yorker, titled, “Colin Kaepernick and a Landmark Supreme Court Case,” from September 15, 2016. The article is drawing similarities between the Supreme Court ruling from 1943, West Virginia State Board of Education v Walter Barnette, and the NFL kneeling protesters. In the court case, the State of West Virginia had a law which stated that all students had to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. A family of Jehovah’s Witnesses refused based upon their religious beliefs prohibiting them from taking such a pledge. The state court stated that reciting the pledge in no way infringed upon their rights, as the law is “not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs.” The Supreme Court of the United States took a much different view, however. Justice Robert Houghwout Jackson wrote in the opinion, “To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”

That is a very compelling argument, and one that I can support as well. It makes sense, if we believe that freedom is the foundation of our nation, then clearly the government should not be able to compel our patriotism. Think of how frightening the counter would be. How far removed is it to go from compelling one to stand for the Pledge or Anthem to taking an oath of fealty to support government officials?

In this regard I can see the authors point. It is clearly the authors position that compelling the NFL players to stand is no different than the government forcing children to stand. However, there are some major differences.

First off, the Supreme Court’s ruling was that compelling school children to salute the flag violates freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. Note the words school children. There is a very clear distinction that is drawn from those words. Children are forced to attend school, where they have very little power over their environment. As such, the government has a very strong interest in ensuring that their constitutional rights are upheld. Unlike the rest of us, a student cannot simply quit his school if they are mistreated or give their patronage to another district whose values are more in line with theirs.

On this basis, the meme is wrong. Additionally, I have nothing but contempt for the people who publish this type of garbage, whether it is on the left or the right. And I have limited patience for those who jump on the bandwagon by sharing it all over social media. The only purpose this serves is to fan the flames of discontent by playing to people’s emotions. I would think that after decades of emails telling us that Bill Gates will give us our own private island for reposting something or that a foreign prince in some unknown country wants to share his riches if we just forward our banking information, people would have figured this out by now. Therefore, I am reaching out to everyone who posts this stupidity. These memes and posts are no different from any other too-good-to-be-true deal. Learn to think and evaluate for yourself. Most importantly, learn to read the source documents. It will save you later on from looking like a fool, assuming you are clear-headed enough to realize you should feel that way.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Matthew Wadler

Matthew Wadler is a U.S. Army veteran. Matt served in the Army for 20 years as both enlisted and officer before retiring. His service includes time as Military Police, Field Artillery, Adjutant General, and Recruiting. His deployments include Somalia and two tours to Afghanistan. His formal education includes a master’s degree in HR Management. He is a strong supporter of the constitution and advocate for the military and veteran communities. Follow Matthew on Twitter @MatthewWadler.

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