James Madison, Jr., fourth President of the United States (1809–1817), is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and the author of the Bill of Rights. Amendment 1.



The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. See U.S. Const. amend. I. Freedom of expression consists of the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the implied rights of association and belief. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights. The First Amendment has been interpreted by the Court as applying to the entire federal government even though it is only expressly applicable to Congress. Furthermore, the Court has interpreted, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV.


The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech. A less stringent test is applied for content-neutral legislation. The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. For more on unprotected and less protected categories of speech see advocacy of illegal action, fighting words, commercial speech and obscenity. The right to free speech includes other mediums of expression that communicate a message.  The level of protection speech receives also depends on the forum in which it takes place.



The right to freedom of speech is one of our most cherished and valuable rights.  The right to speak freely without interference or fear of reprisal does not apply only to government, it is a right that prohibits anyone, even a bishop, from interfering with the right of a person, whether they be a priest, a deacon, a religious or a lay Catholic from speaking.  The only exception to this is when a person speaks heresy.  The canons of the Church’s Code of Canon Law provide for disciplinary punishment for any Catholic that speaks in opposition to truth, either as divinely revealed or as contained the the magisterial teaching of the Church.

Freedom of speech is under attack from all quarters today, most evident in the efforts of liberals to suppress political speech of conservatives.  It is attacked by liberal judges with increasing frequency as they penalize persons for uttering anything that resembles ‘hate speech’, that is, speech that criticizes the agenda of the LGBT activists to promote homosexuality, same-sex marriage, etc.

It is something new and frightening if a bishop seeks to suppress the freedom of speech of priests, deacons, religious or laity in his diocese that does not fall under the canonical prohibition of heretical speech.  The power of a bishop to suppress freedom of speech is awesome.  In the case of priests, deacons and religious a bishop can, for instance, order the individual to undergo psychiatric evaluation in a center like Splendora Center in Houston.  The individual is in danger of bringing down a canonical penalty, such as suspension of faculties, if the individual refuses to undergo psychiatric evaluation.

It is a new and dangerous world in which we now live.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas


  1. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ep: 5:11,

    Acts Cahpter 4: “So they [Annas, the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly class] called them back [the Apostles Peter and John] and ordered them not to speak . . .Peter and John, however said to them in reply: ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.’ . . .After their release…they went back to their own people . . .they raised their voices to God with one accord and said ‘And now Lord take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness”

    No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter the circumstances, your thoughts are free. Even on the Cross, dying, Jesus spoke of His own free will and they did not silence Him.

    “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Brings Freedom) was the sign over the gates of Auschwitz. It was placed there by Major Rudolf Hoss, commandant of the camp.

    Die Gedanken Sind Frei -The song was important to certain anti-Nazi resistance movements in Germany. In 1942, Sophie Scholl, a member of the White Rose resistance group, played the song on her flute outside the walls of Ulm prison, where her father Robert had been detained for calling the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler a “scourge of God”. Earlier, in 1935, the guards at the Lichtenburg concentration camp had ordered prisoners to stage a performance in celebration of Hitler’s 46th birthday; the imprisoned Jewish lawyer Hans Litten recited Die Gedanken sind frei in response.[

    Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten,
    sie fliegen vorbei wie nächtliche Schatten.
    Kein Mensch kann sie wissen, kein Jäger erschießen
    mit Pulver und Blei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

    Ich denke was ich will und was mich beglücket,
    doch alles in der Still’, und wie es sich schicket.
    Mein Wunsch und Begehren kann niemand verwehren,
    es bleibet dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

    Und sperrt man mich ein im finsteren Kerker,
    das alles sind rein vergebliche Werke.
    Denn meine Gedanken zerreißen die Schranken
    und Mauern entzwei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

    Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
    They fly by like nocturnal shadows.
    No man can know them, no hunter can shoot them
    with powder and lead: Thoughts are free!

    I think what I want, and what delights me,
    still always reticent, and as it is suitable.
    My wish and desire, no one can deny me
    and so it will always be: Thoughts are free!

    And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
    all these are futile works,
    because my thoughts tear all gates
    and walls apart: Thoughts are free!

    Guy McClung, San Antonio

  2. Thank you dear Bishop Emeritus Gracida! You are courageous with great conviction bringing the light of Christ top the darkness of this world! We are grateful and privileged to receive your words of wisdom and direction we need desperately! We thank God for you and continue to go forward in Truth. May God grant you answers to your prayers and bless you with good health. We love you & continue our daily prayers for you!

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