Friday, March 4, 2011

The Right of Free Speech

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in an important First Amendment free speech case that Albert Snyder, father of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, was not entitled to damages for the emotional distress inflicted by protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. The protestors had picketed the funeral of Lance Corporal Matthews, who was killed in Iraq in 2006, and as a result legal action was taken against the church by Mr. Snyder.

This particular church group pickets military funerals because they believe God is punishing soldiers who defend a country that has a "policy" of accepting homosexuals. They carry signs that read “God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11” and “Semper Fi Fags” and “Thank God for IEDs.”

For a church group (or anyone else) to picket the funeral of a member of the U.S. military seems inconceivable. The family members of the deceased are having the absolute worst day of their lives, and not far away someone is holding a sign that reads “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” I have known Baptists my entire life, and never have I known one who would do something as cruel and contemptible as this. Not one. It is no surprise, then, that mainstream Baptists reject this crowd as the malodorous open sore they most certainly are.

In January 2011, Westboro announced it would picket the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old victim of the Tucson shooting, who wanted only to meet Rep. Gabby Giffords. The Arizona legislature wisely passed an emergency bill to ban protests within 300 feet of a funeral service, and Tucson residents made plans to shield the funeral from protesters.

What types of people are these? What sort of leader are they following? Can they not understand the pain they are causing or the anger they are arousing? Are they not parents themselves?

I don’t know. I know only that it seems they are giving thanks to God for the deaths of those who ensure their First Amendment rights. It is both ironic and sickening. But mostly sickening.

I’m not going to start a comparison with the God they worship and mine; I’ll just mention that we have some differences there, and leave it at that. And I wouldn’t presume to know what awaits them on the other side of the mortality they seem so intent on wasting. We all have freedom of choice. None of us, however, has freedom from consequences.

The truth is, they can follow any leader they want. They can choose to believe anything they want. And they can protest and carry signs with hurtful messages as long as they obey the law.

Jerks and fools have rights, too.

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