1. Which freedoms mean the most to you and why?

The staff of the Mackinac Center represents a broad range of faiths, and worshipping according to one’s beliefs and conscience is clearly high on the list as a cherished freedom. It was mentioned more than any other one. One person opined that "freedom to worship God according to the dictates of my conscience" is "an original American concept."

Another expressed it this way: "Freedom of religion means the most to me because it enables me to seek and choose the truth of God unrestrained by the government."

Freedom of religion means the most to others on our staff for these reasons:

"Because to be able to publicly worship and study Scripture strengthens my faith, allows me to share it with others, and consequently helps me lift up others when they are facing difficulties."

"Because it allows me to freely recognize my relationship with the Creator and practice his divine teachings to be the person He would have me be, doing what He would have me do."

"Because I believe it is through true spiritual enlightenment that a person’s, and society’s, greatest qualities — love, forgiveness, generosity — blossom."

"Because I believe it is a fundamental freedom that many nations do not have and a freedom that was the foundation of this country’s beginnings."

"Because the freedom to worship and hold your own individual faith is essential to the health and welfare of a person’s soul."

"There are many examples of places in this world where governments forbid their citizens to practice a Christian faith. Having the personal freedom to openly celebrate and promote Christ at Christmas, without the fear of being physically tortured and/or killed, is truly not a freedom that I take for granted."

Mentioned with nearly as much frequency was freedom of speech. Needless to say, this has special meaning to us because "speech" is what the Mackinac Center is all about. The studies, commentaries and events that we sponsor are the tangible output of our efforts, but those things are merely the vehicles for something more important – ideas, and specifically, ideas of freedom, free enterprise, and sound policy.

At this very time, the Mackinac Center (with the help of expert, pro bono legal counsel from the prestigious Institute for Justice), is fighting an assault on freedom of speech from the Michigan Education Association. You can read all about it at http://www.mackinac.org/4356. Meantime, here’s what our staff have to say about this important element of a free society:

Freedom of speech is important to me "because if you can’t say what you believe you can’t express the individuality that makes each of us a unique person."

"Because my right to express ideas is not subservient to the state."

"Because without it, the truth could not be heard, and the truth is what I love more than anything in this world."

"Because it enables me to speak out against the government when it promulgates immoral and anti-faith agendas."

"Because our ability to publicly criticize the Republic is key to a healthy state."

"Because the ability to express yourself and your ideas is essential to feeling free and being an individual."

"Because tyranny cannot abide truth."

"Because I enjoy learning new things from others every day and because I believe it is through hearing others’ opinions that I will start to begin to truly understand my neighbors and myself."

Other freedoms cited by the Center’s staff were:

"Freedom to bear arms should the government decide we’re no longer free to protest against it."

"Freedom to not be deprived of my rights without a fair trial, including due process, because life without this kind of freedom would be a Kafkaesque hell."

"I can sit in the comfort of my home and peruse the wares of hundreds of thousands of sellers on eBay with a few clicks of the mouse. Imagine traveling back to 1950 and trying to explain to someone that they will be someday be able to search for and purchase a rare book or other product without ever leaving their fireside, dog, family, dinner; and do so quickly, and for 'free.' Moreover, the search is conducted among a wider pool of sellers than would otherwise occur, saving money and time. In addition, the same tool breaks down barriers of distance and unites more people from more disparate backgrounds than Jesus Christ himself. All of this, because a few very talented people want to labor in my service for personal gain. Could anything be cooler? Talk about the Christmas Spirit – and I get this year long!"

"The freedom to create new technology and to use existing technologies without the interference of government impeding this process. Most notably for me at this time of year, the technology of the automotive industry and how quickly it allows us to connect with family and friends. I reflect on the incredible ability with which we may travel hundreds of miles in hours, whereas a century ago such travel would have taken days or weeks."

"When I was a child I was told about my mom’s family’s experiences in Europe, first under the fascists, then later under the communists. They led socially constrained, nervous, sometimes desperate lives until they emigrated to and found both security and prosperity in Detroit, of all places. That may sound strange now but I imagine it seemed like heaven to them at the time."

"What I’m most grateful for is that I am able to live in a place where 'Peace on Earth' is not merely a fond wish, but a reality."

"In using the Four Freedoms model (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom from fear). I believe the fourth freedom says it all. I live with freedom from fear that I will be denied the right to say what I want to say or that I won’t benefit from hearing all others have to say, even if I do not agree with their stance. I live with freedom from fear that I will not be able to worship as I choose — or not worship if that too is my choice. I live with freedom from want — as long as I live a responsible life and take care of myself and my own."

"I have one other freedom I cherish beyond words and that is the freedom to travel wherever in the world my hard work allows me to go. Others on this earth do not have this freedom and my heart aches for them. The ability to travel the world and see other peoples, cultures, and the wonders of the natural world the Lord gave to us is a wonderful gift. A very wise man once said to me that the best thing about the U.S. of A. was leaving it. I could not understand what he meant till he explained that after visiting other countries, the freedoms we enjoy are never again taken for granted. As my world travel has increased, I have learned to understand that fact very well."

"The right of self-government. No other freedoms are secure unless government remains subordinate to the consent of the governed. No matter how clumsily we may exercise this right, however burdensome we find the responsibility, no more liberating form of social organization has existed in all human history."

"I can’t pick one freedom that means the most to me because to me they are all too interrelated. For example if we did not have freedom to worship as we wished we would not really have freedom of speech. To me it is the interaction of all of the freedoms we enjoy that means the most to me."

And finally, on a lighter note, "Freedom to bear arms, because venison tastes really good and I certainly don’t expect the government to provide it for me."