When Freedom of Speech Is Hard to Swallow

We belong to an alternative, minority faith. Many in the majority would like nothing better if we didn’t have the legal right to speak and practice.

The gods and our forefathers are kind, we have the right to speak and practice, guaranteed in the 1st amendment of the Bill of Rights, 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.

So when questions of the right to abridge that freedom come up, I am on the side of the most freedom for the most people.

Then, the Supreme Court of the US ruled that in the case of Snyder v the Westboro Baptist Church, that the church had the right to protest at funerals.

Westboro believes that America is morally flawed; many Americans might feel the same about Westboro. Westboro’s funeral picketing is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible. But Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials. The speech was indeed planned to coincide with Matthew Snyder’s funeral, but did not itself disrupt that funeral, and Westboro’s choice to conduct its picketing at that time and place did not alter the nature of its speech.

For those of you that have never heard of this organization, the Kansas-based church has made the news here in the US for picketing at the funerals of veterans, with their message of God Hates Fags.

The Anti-Defamation League describes them as, is a small virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group that regularly stages protests around the country, often several times a week. The group pickets institutions and individuals they think support homosexuality or otherwise subvert what they believe is God’s law.

From the viciousness of their rhetoric and the calculated malice, they are the lowest common denominator in religious and civic discourse in the US.

But…

And this is what makes me grind my teeth in frustration. Because any ruling that affirms the right of free speech is a good thing.

Even if I wish Westboro had no platform to spew hate from. Even if I wish their god would come take them home, so the rest of us could go about our business in peace.

So I raise a horn to freedom. Because freedom for one is freedom for all. Even if the one is a hate-mongering, grith-breaking, intolerant group.

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One Response to When Freedom of Speech Is Hard to Swallow

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I completely agree. Phelps and his crew disgust me, but this is America, and everybody should have the same rights — even people as foul as him.

    I do love how, when the KKK had a rally in downtown Tulsa a few years back, about 3,000 people showed up to counter-protest the 125 or so Klansmen that appeared. Perhaps that’s the answer — counter-protesters making sure that these jackasses disturb the mourners and family as little as possible.

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