Are there limits on free speech in America? We are about to find out. The US Supreme Court is hearing the case of the small church which likes to go to military funerals and scream protests. The church is Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. They appear to be a church of about fifty to sixty people, most of whom seem to be related to each other. One thing is clear, this is a group of haters. From all indications this is the most un-Christian Christian church I have ever heard of. They were sued by the father of a fallen Marine. At that Marine’s funeral they protested in an ugly and disgusting way. Their stated view is that since America is tolerating homosexuality, God is punishing us by killing our servicemen in combat. Further, they seem to believe that we deserve all the grief being visited upon us, and it should continue until we revert to their very narrow way of thinking. The Marine’s father won a judgment of eleven million dollars which was later reduced to five million. An appeals court threw out the judgment claiming it violated the church’s free speech rights. The case has now found its way to the Supreme Court.
So, what to think of this. I am going to offer an opinion which could probably upset some folks. As Americans we are freedom loving people and freedom can sometimes get pretty messy. Freedom of speech means that even ugly speaking people have the right to that speech. There is no one on earth who can decide for me what I can say. As a free American I can open my mouth and reveal my inner most stupidity at any time if I so choose. So can the Waterboro Baptist Church. Free speech doesn’t mean just the speech that you happen to agree with. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean just the pretty words that are not controversial. No, this right allows for all speech, ugly, hateful, disgusting, and just plain down right stupid also.
I believe The Supreme Court will find the same way. Some may feel that this is a bad decision. Consider this, what if someone decided some day that your choice of songs you wished to sing, or the poetry you wished to recite, were uncomfortable to them. Would you favor their right to shut you up? What if they felt that your newspaper held the wrong political opinion? Would you favor a law shutting up that newspaper? We have, in our history, fought and died for this right, and sometimes, even when we don’t like the message of some moron, they still have the right to spew that view. Both hate speech and love speech are just speech in the eyes of the law and the Constitution.
The absolute best way of dealing with the Waterboro Baptist Church is to ignore them. No press, no TV coverage, just ignore them. Trust me, they will go away. If we denied them publicity, they would disappear just as quickly as they appeared. The Marine whose funeral they protested died so they could have the freedom to hold that protest. Seems ironic, doesn’t it.
You, who are reading this, are reading it on the Opinion Page of this newspaper. This column is my opinion. I have the freedom to express my opinion because this is America. The nitwits who display their ignorance at military funerals have the same freedom. They can scream all the hate they wish. It only serves to show the world what morons they are.
Ron Scarbro October 10, 2010
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