Free Speech Even When It Hurts

I don’t know if you saw this or not because it sort of got buried in the news of memorial day, but our country just passed a very interesting law. It is called the “Respect the Fallen Act” or something very similar and it is aimed pretty squarely at Westboro Baptist Church. The law states that there can be no demonstrations on the road into a cemetary on the day of a military funeral. It gives a certain amount of feet, but it primarily is designed to keep the loons from Westboro from protesting. (Westboro says that because America lets gays in the military that they are being punished and that is why soldiers are dying)  

Alright, I think you guys know that I think this group is insane. I have talked more than once about how much they are hurting the cause of Christ with their web site and their protests. I am honestly embarrassed that they share the name Baptist and can’t find even one shred of common ground that I have with these guys. 

With all of that said, this law is wrong and also counterintuitive. What they are doing is basically giving these crazies more reason to fight. And if I were them I would be thrilled that the government of the United States noticed enough to make a law against me.

Trust me, I hate all that they are saying. I think that it is utterly despicable to protest a funeral. When my parents died it was “news” so there were people covering the funeral and I was appalled by that. I think funerals should always be private affairs and this group should be ashamed for protesting when these men and women have given their lives for our country. But they have to have the right to do it.

I know that sucks. I know it isn’t right. All that I am wants to say that they should be thrown in jail for their stupid opinions. Trust me I believe that they are hurting Christianity. I want them silenced. But I also believe that in America one of the truths that we must live by is that free speech is only free if EVERYONE gets to say what they want. And as terrible as their speech is they have the right to say it. That is what makes this country so amazing. Even the people who say we have a bad country have a right to say it.

I don’t think this law will hold up in court. It is too limiting and too specific (anytime congress passes a law against a small group of people that is a problem in my book)  But even if it does hold up that doesn’t make it right. I want the right to always say what I believe, and I will fight for your right to do the same, even it is the exact opposite of what I want to say. That is the beauty of this country.

5 thoughts on “Free Speech Even When It Hurts

  • June 2, 2006 at 3:35 PM

    What about the rights of these families to have a private funeral?

    How does the government *balance* the families’ rights with the rights of others to free speech in a fair and euitable manner?

    I do not think the government is denying these people their right to free speech. They still have an opportunity to voice it, just not exactly in the location and time they want. It is not much different than requiring a permit to hold a political rally that exercises our right to assembly.

  • June 2, 2006 at 11:12 PM

    In agreement with Mark the issue is not freedom of speech rather freedom of assembly.

    The courts have consistently held that in the course of "speaking" you can not violate the rights of another individual and/or infringe on "personal space". i.e. Prayer is not allowed at football games because some of the spectators can not willingly abstain from participating. In which case their religion or rather lack of is infringed upon.
    So in the case of Westboro the bill was signed to prevent them infringing their viewpoint on unwilling participants (funeral attendees).

    I suspect the President understood that a "hate speech" provision would have been a lenghthy court battle. That’s why he prohibited where they could protest rather than what they say when they protest.

    I suspect even further that local municipalities will strengthen the "law" by mandating their own requirements on the necessity, purpose, and rational behind a group wanting to assemble. Further limiting the ability for them to spew hatred. I know that when you break this all down it still is an end-run to prevent them from saying what they want. But as they say in France "Ciest La Vie"

  • June 3, 2006 at 2:35 AM

    But these guys weren’t protesting "at" the funeral, but on the way to the funeral. They were on "public" space and that makes some of the difference. A football game isn’t "public" space it is the school’s property and it is a school function.

    If I would like to stand in a city park and tell people about Jesus I want to be able to do that. If I want to give out water on the street corner and tell people about God’s love I want to be able to do that. That is why I don’t want the government limiting where people can speak. What happens when our ideas are the ones that aren’t in vogue and suddenly the only place you can talk about God is in a church?

    Trust me, I believe that funerals should be private. I think we should keep cameras and people away from them that the families don’t want. But when we start targeting specific groups for national laws we are in trouble.

  • June 3, 2006 at 11:57 AM

    Shane I understand your point. It truly has the potential for a "slippery slope".

    I guess my biggest gripe with Fred Phelps and Westboro "baptist" "church" is that they are getting so much attention! By the way World magazine just labeled them an official cult (apparently there’s a flow chart that helps you determine such things)

  • June 4, 2006 at 4:12 AM

    I want to start a cult. It seems like fun. You get to wear cool robes and everyone calls you father and the government makes laws against you. Right up until the Kool-Aid part it would be really great.

    Actually, it is just the outfits that I want. When are we going to learn from Star Trek and just have everyone from the same planet wear the same jumpsuit?


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