Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Free to Be a Crackpot...

Today the US Supreme Court voted 8-1 to allow the Westboro Baptist Church to continue their demonstrations and picketing at military funerals despite the hate-filled nature of their protests.

The decision ended a lawsuit by Albert Snyder, who sued church members for the emotional pain they caused by showing up at his son Matthew's funeral. As they have at hundreds of other funerals, the Westboro members held signs with provocative messages, including "Thank God for dead soldiers," `"You're Going to Hell," `"God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11," and one that combined the US Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi, with a slur against gay men. (The fundamentalist church believes that God is punishing the military for America's tolerance of homosexuality.)

Writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said that this ruling and other similar ones protect "even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate." (The lone dissenter, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, said, "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.")

While I am saddened that the Westboro Baptist Church can continue to cause families such significant pain when they are already grieving, simply so they can continue to foment hate and ignorance, I understand and, ultimately, support the Court's ruling. As much as we don't want—and shouldn't be forced to—hear Westboro's protests, especially at funerals, freedom of speech should be applied to everyone, even those filled with hate and ignorance.

It's crazy when my brain works logically.

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