Philly’s Inquirer Daily News reported that Jaelene Hinkle’s soccer talents on the field “are beyond question. She has been arguably the best left back in the [National Women’s Soccer League] this year and plays for the league’s best team.”

But that’s where the compliments stop and the controversy begins.

In June 2017, Hinkle was called up to play for America in an international competition. She was thrilled until she learned that the team was planning to wear rainbow-colored jersey numbers in honor of Pride Month, which she respectfully refused to do on religious grounds.

She explained to CBN, “I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey.” She said she was proud to wear the American flag and didn’t want to give up her dream of playing in the nationals, but she had to follow what she felt God was calling her to do. Watch her explain her heart and faith in this CBN interview.

The backlash was fast and fierce, from social media to sports broadcasts and mainstream media. And bizarrely, a week ago and one year after her controversial jersey decision, Hinkle was called up by the U.S. Women’s National Team, only to be booted in the same week just three days before the final roster for the Tournament of Nations.

Is it fair that Colin Kaepernick can start a movement that offends millions of patriotic Americans by taking a knee during the national anthem – then was hailed as a finalist in Time’s Person of the Year (2017), yet when Hinkle respectfully refuses to wear a rainbow jersey because of her First Amendment rights, people implode and she gets booted from the nationals?

Instead of the First Amendment securing our freedom of speech and religion in America, popular culture, social media, political correctness and expediency have. That’s why America is experiencing increased polarizations and divisions. That is also why we’ve wrongly created the new wave and criteria (laws) for so-called “hate speech.” It is also why the White House wrongly banned certain press personnel from an event for merely asking tough questions they didn’t like.

We must return to be a nation where we agree to disagree agreeably, and even at times not agreeably. Where no one is penalized for having a different point of view, no matter how much we disagree with them. If the First Amendment isn’t protecting the most extreme differences, what is it protecting? Only what we perceive to be good, right and loving speech and religious practice?

Could the First Amendment be any clearer or stated more succinctly?

It reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Odds are you agree and disagree with one of those two rulings, and it’s your freedom to do so. What’s not right to do, however, is to suppress the freedoms and rights of those who disagree with you, whether under the guise of others’ hate speech or what you believe to be right or wrong.

That’s not just my opinion, but the opinion of likely the greatest living scholar today on the First Amendment, Floyd Abrams.

Abrams is a Yale-educated adjunct law professor at New York Law School, 15 years the visiting professor of First Amendment law at the Columbia School of Journalism, and senior counsel to the New York City law firm Cahill, Gordon & Reindel where he’s practice law for over 50 years.

His must-read book, “The Soul of the First Amendment: Why Freedom of Speech Matters,” is genius not only for its explanation of the origin and original intent of the First Amendment but also how it compares the First Amendment with the laws and practices in other countries in order to explain its uniqueness. Especially important is understanding Americans’ right to exercise free speech and religious choice in the face of opposition and oppression from which the Framers and the 13 colonies originated in England.

It seems part of Abram’s underlying case is that America is turning the First Amendment on its head. Hence, we’re returning to a culture of oppression and suppression based upon the whims and likes of a presiding audience or faction, rather than the freedoms the First Amendment secures for all of us.

In a Washington Times review of Abram’s book, it identifies two of the polar misconceptions and misuses of the First Amendment: “For example, many Americans think hate speech is prohibited by the First Amendment, but as a unanimous U. S. Supreme Court just reminded us (in Matal v. Tam, the so-called ‘Slants’ case) it is not, nor can an employee of a private company who gets canned because of an offensive Tweet cry ‘the First Amendment has my back.’ So this little volume – 137 pages of text plus an eight-page index – by America’s best known First Amendment lawyer could hardly be more timely.”

The fact is, America needs to relearn why our founders felt compelled to amend the U.S. Constitution with our Bill of Rights, and particularly our First Amendment.

Abrams wrote in his book, “In the end, those who believed that without a bill of rights the newly empowered federal government might well overstep its bounds into areas of personal liberty carried the day, and would eventually be viewed, as historian Joseph Ellis put it, as the nation’s ‘secular version of the Ten Commandments.'”

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has been buried today in the barrage of popular interpretations and a culture of political correctness. But it is one of many national treasures that needs to be unearthed and rediscovered in its original intent if we are truly to make America great again.

For those interested to learn more, I highly recommend Abrams’ “The Soul of the First Amendment: Why Freedom of Speech Matters” and my New York Times bestseller, “Black Belt Patriotism.” Here’s also a great C-SPAN interview with Abrams as well as FOX & Friends Brian Meade’s interview with Floyd Abrams.

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