Friday, September 3, 2010

Legislating Respect

Yesterday, a federal judge overturned Nebraska’s ban on flag burning and mutilation, once again clearing the path for the disgusting Westboro Baptist Church to protest military funerals because of their belief that soldier deaths are a punishment from God for our nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Prepare your pickets signs, kids!

The law was challenged by Megan Phelps-Roper, a member of the church, on the basis that it violated her right to free speech. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf ruled the 1977 Nebraska law inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court decisions which rule flag desecration an essential part of the constitutional promise of free speech. Judge Kopf said that as long as Westboro Baptist Church members desecrate the flag in a peaceful manner and setting, the Nebraska law cannot be applied, officially reassuring assholes across the nation.

I fully respect the decision of the court on this one, because I love free speech as much as the next liberal blog writer. However, like a proud and decent American, I hate to see the troops disrespected. It is one thing to disrespect the flag. It is another thing entirely to taint the memory of what is already a depressing day in the lives of a deceased’s loved ones.

While Nebraska cannot prevent the Westboro community from desecrating the flag, I think Nebraska, and every other state for that matter, should have a part in making sure that a funeral is not desecrated. I fail to see how protesting a funeral is peaceful, especially when the protesters espouse messages of hate and revenge while carrying signs that say “Thank God for Maimed Soldiers”.

Yes, I realize they are not throwing rocks or carrying guns, but are they hostile, disgraceful and disruptive? I would say most definitely. Their activities are not in the spirit of peace, which I guess many people would say does not meant they are not peaceful and therefore my logic is flawed, but that’s enough for me, and 48 states and the District of Columbia.

In June, a brief was submitted to the Supreme Court in support of a father who sued anti-gay protestors who picketed his son’s funeral, signed by every state except Virginia and Maine. In the brief sponsored by the Kansas attorney general, the states assert that there is a compelling interest in protecting the sanctity of funerals. In the case proceedings, the presiding judge told jurors that there are limits to the First Amendment protection of free speech, including vulgar, offensive or shocking statements, and that the jurors must decide if the speech of the Westboro Baptist Church is so offensive to any reasonable person that is should not be afforded First Amendment protection.

Sure, I know we can’t stop bigots from espousing their opinions and poisoning the minds of half the nation, but why shouldn’t we have to allow them to do so in a place where their already objectionable antics are made more vile? We shouldn’t. The rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church, in my humble opinion, is the most offensive thing I have ever heard, in the most inappropriate and shocking setting. I think Fred Phelps and his followers have exhausted their free speech rights at this point.

Westboro Baptists, desecrate the flag all you want, but please, do it somewhere else. Preferably at least 500 meters from any funeral home and/or cemetery. If you cannot do that, well, I hope Lady Gaga starts protesting your funerals.


Rabi Abonour said...

I think that the WBC is disgusting. I don't want anyone protesting soldiers' funerals. But I am far from certain that the government has a compelling interest in protecting the sanctity of funerals.

Bill said...

I don't think you can ever exhaust your free speech rights. If we can't protect the most vile and loathsome speech, then we can't protect any speech.

I don't know what the solution to this problem is. Usually the Constitutionally sound solution to unwanted picketers is a "No Trespassing" sign, but here we're talking about public property. Maybe people should start protesting the WBC? (If they aren't already)

Rabi Abonour said...

People definitely counter-protest the WBC. My sister actually went to WBC protest with a lot of other people, and they all counter-protested it.
There is also a great video online of WBC protesters being chased off a college campus by angry students.