BLOG PART 4: In this fourth and final posting of our blog series, students in the Communications Department’s Basic Reporting and Writing for Journalism class were asked to evaluate recent commentary concerning the delicate and sometimes contentious balance between First Amendment rights and protecting our human sensitivities, particularly in relation to the recent and ongoing removal of Civil War Confederate statues across the nation.

Graphic illustration by Chris Hodges



Across the country, numerous Confederate statues are being removed in attempt to eliminate offensive reminders and ultimately erase the past.

The real issue, however, is not that the statues are a danger to America, but rather that emotions are not kept separate from news, and from the Constitution.

Without this divide between personal feelings and hard facts, the First Amendment loses its authority.

In order to eliminate any gray area, the words of the amendment must be interpreted precisely as written: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech … or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

The First Amendment does not state that if a person takes offense to a particular painting, statue or protest, that the expression must then be removed.

Notice the word, “peaceful” written above. This implies that unless an expression is exercised in a disruptive, physical, harmful manner that directly affects the people, then there’s no issue.

Censoring the press in order to avoid topics that may be labeled as offensive or emotionally disturbing is unconstitutional.

Hiding the hard facts of history does not erase the past, nor does it take a proactive approach in keeping devastating historical events, like the Holocaust or slavery, from reoccurring.

Knowledge is power, awareness is essential. Turning our backs in attempt to pretend an event never happened will not further America’s progression.

The First Amendment is clear. Let us not bend the truth to fit our own standards.


Removing the statutes will not remove the memories.

As long as the mentality of the people remain the same, this world will continue to turn in this same pattern.

Across the country, millions of people in varying racial demographics are upset about one thing or another. For the Caucasians it’s the removal of Confederate figures, for the African Americans it’s police brutality, for the Hispanics it’s immigration issues under the current president.

Regardless of all of this, what rights do we have? What platform do we have to stand on in order to stand up for what we believe in?

That one thing that allows us to be able to “speak our mind” is the First Amendment.

What happens when your First Amendment rights are viewed as wrong or too extreme? The amendment doesn’t say how one is to express, it simply gives approval for one to express.

So the problem really is our mind.

Everyone has a story, however, every story goes through an evolution process. This coming maturity level allows the story to take shape. It allows the story to make sense instead of a heap of details.

After all, these stories have been passed down from generation to generation. But when do we stop telling our stories and start listening to others?

As conscientious humans we need to understand and realize that removing a statue or plaque — or anything that commemorates an event in history — doesn’t change the fact that you have living testaments to the event.

As long as they have a view, generations following will have the same view. Listen to the other side, learn what really happened.

Be the catalyst of change.


Have we really come to the point of demolishing history out of sight?

I see statues as history that is placed for us to look at and remember what was once going on in the past. The past should not be forgotten. If we get rid of the past we will soon have no memory as to what used to happen.

The problem is that the statute is offensive to people. We shouldn’t have to remove statues of history just because some people find it offensive and some don’t.

Since South Carolina took down its Confederate-era statue, now other cities are considering their statues coming down as well, including St. Louis. At this rate there will soon be none left for people to read and look upon.

According to Vox, a shortened website on top news sponsored by Ezra Klein, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu defended the move in a speech.

“They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for,” he said. “They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.”

It’s sad to think there are people out there who don’t have a say in things that happen around the world.

It’s even more sad to think that soon we might not have any statues left to remember or to educate ourselves with. First Robert E. Lee, is George Washington next?