I just read with an incredible amount of distaste the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case against the Westboro Baptist Church (regarding their reprehensible “picketing” of United States Armed Services funerals). The court, while finding the actions of the “church” unconscionable, still recognizes the prejudiced bigots’ right to free speech.
This is in actuality a good thing. If you all think back to 1977, when there was proposed a march in Skokie, Illinois for the National Socialist Party of America, the court found even then that unpopular groups with racist views still have the right to gather and to speak publicly (more can be found here: Collin v. Smith: 1977 - Nazis Must Be Allowed To March, Suggestions For Further Reading). Our constitution guarantees them that right, and it’s a damn good thing it does. If it didn’t, these groups would be underground and more dangerous than they currently are as they would not be subject to public scrutiny.
While I agree in part with dissenting justice Alito, I still think the right thing to do here is let them speak. The constitution protects it (even though it is hate speech) and I would not want our rights eroded any further than our government has already done in the name of “security”. I know, I have always been outspoken concerning this congregation’s hateful rhetoric. It infuriates me that they are allowed to publicly display their hate – but it is one of the cornerstones of this country that they be allowed to.
I find the people who populate the congregation of the WBC to be callous, inconsiderate, bigoted individuals who have no business speaking out against anyone else. Their complete lack of compassion for their fellow Americans is not only sickening but disturbing. Yet, they do have a right to protest and display their hateful rhetoric, as much a right as the American Nazis had in Skokie Illinois in 1977.
As do the rest of us. I think a fabulous response to these WBC “protests” would be organized counter protests : whenever they come to YOUR town, let them know they’re not welcome by massing where they will be protesting and carrying your OWN signs. Or better still, maybe it’s time to organize a protest in Topeka, Kansas where the WBC can actually get a taste of its own medicine.
After all, this is America.
Photo courtesy of harbor88 on Flickr
**Addendum 3/3/2011 - Torman has taken the counterpoint to this piece. I urge you all to go read it here (that's a link - the word "here").
My thanks to everyone who has read and contributed to this piece, and my thanks to Torman for posting an opposing viewpoint.