Friday, October 26, 2007

Fred Phelp's First Amendment Right

Fred Phelps is the minister of the Westboro Baptist Church (Topeka, about 60 members most of them family members, all of them crazy). In recent years Fred has taken his obsession with homosexuality into a new arena, protesting at the military funerals of American service people. Fred and his followers believe that God kllls our soldiers as a punishment for (in their opinion) our country's acceptance of homosexuality. Thus you have the bizarre sight of funerals being picketed by church members holding signs that say, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and the classic, "God Hates Fags."

Finally a marine's father has had enough and is suing the church for the emotional damage he suffered when they picketed his son's funeral in March of 2006.

Having just come from a memorial service this afternoon my heart goes out to this poor man and his family. The incredible hate of these people is mindboggling. Their willingness to turn a solemn private event, into a spectacle for their ludicrous and completely irrelevant message is shocking and evil.

But I cannot support the father's lawsuit. And I hope that the first amendment right of the Westboro church is upheld. Hatred is not defeated by silencing it, but by letting it expose itself as the sickness it is. There are limits to the free speech right, of course, but offensive or insulting speech (that does not directly injure or advocate violence) is exactly the sort of speech that requires protection.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That the catch though, their behavior and actions are injuring people. Clearly, that's a basis of the lawsuit. Therefore, do they have a right to it? Maybe. But technically, if a riot happened because of their actions, it's their fault. Inciting a riot through speech is one of the limits on the first amendment, and in the past they have reached a point where a riot might have been justified.