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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Protected Speech

You've probably heard about the Westboro Baptist Church and its founder, Fred Phelps. These are the "people" who go to military funerals and picket with really offensive signs. What they believe is a little muddy because they hate in so many different directions but it has something to do with believing that gays are responsible for all the evils in the world except, of course, for those caused by Jews. The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a lawsuit brought against the "church" by a man named Albert Snyder whose son died in the service of this country. Phelps sent his "flock" to picket the funeral. Is standing outside the funeral for Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder with signs that say "God hates fags" protected speech?

I'm almost sorry to say I think it is. The Westboro protestors may have intended to inflict pain and suffering on the attendees of the Snyder services but from all reports, they obeyed the laws about where to stand and how to not interfere with those inside. (In some areas, those laws have since been made stricter.) Indeed, most of the attendees apparently did not even see the nasty signs until they watched the news later. I think they're assholes. Not only that, I think they're managing that all-too-rare hat trick of offending all three significant religious groups in this country: Those who believe in God, those who don't and those who don't know or care. That's not easy.

Every article I've read about the debate at the Supreme Court suggests the Justices made clear that they found Phelps and his mob loathsome and were trying to find some way to spank them without issuing a ruling that would restrict Free Speech. I don't think they're going to find it.

Comment from Lyle: Sorry, but I wouldn’t weep very long if some kind and caring soul were to put a 30 caliber bullet between the eyes of these ‘worshipers.’

Naturally, I would boycott their funeral service. I expect the parents and friends of the dead troopers would help me in the boycott. Payback and all that.

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