November 1, 2007, 9:30 am; posted by
Filed under Articles, Featured, Steve  | 6 Comments

The First Amendment to our Constitution applies to everyone, not just the people we like and agree with. Not just those who say things we respect.

And that’s why the $10.9 million ruling against the Westboro Baptist Church is ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong. I am fully conversant with the hypocrisy and evil of Westboro; I covered it here six months ago in a live report on their radio appearance. They are vile, misguided, horrid, and wrong. I cannot imagine — I don’t want to be able to imagine — how anyone could believe picketing soldiers’ funerals is God’s work.

If they did it to someone I knew, I’d wind up spending a night in jail.

But there’s a dramatic difference between an individual answering hate speech with a jump kick or a flying tackle, and our nation’s legal system trying to silence it with a multi-million dollar judgment. After all, the First Amendment protects us against laws, governmental action, “abridging the freedom of speech.”

How else can we characterize this ruling? Sure, the outcome is great if it keeps Phelps and his brainwashed acolytes out of our military cemeteries, but at its very core, this is a government-imposed limitation on the right of specific (odious) people to say a very specific, unpopular (disgusting) thing.

But there’s no guarantee those parentheticals will apply to the next target. And even if they do, those are precisely the sorts of people and speech that the First Amendment was meant to protect! We don’t need an amendment to protect friendly, civil small talk — we need it to ensure that the government can’t leverage its immense weight to silence unpopular beliefs.

This is not a “time, place, and manner” limitation — it is not a narrowly tailored regulation to stop “fighting words.” It does not fall into any First Amendment exception that I can see. Instead, it is a harshly punitive judgment based solely on the CONTENT and STYLE of speech.

And you know what? It’s wrong.

As a Christian mindful of our constantly changing culture, who might possess a few culturally unpopular ideas of my own about heaven and hell, this ruling doesn’t make me happy. It makes me nervous.


6 Comments to “Westboro”

  1. David on November 1st, 2007 1:43 pm

    That is the kind of stuff that scares me too. In war every bridge you burn for your enemy you burn for yourself too. Your enemy may hold the bridge today but you may need it tomorrow.

  2. Chloe on November 1st, 2007 4:58 pm

    Well, then, Steve, what do you suggest be done to make them stop?

  3. Steve on November 1st, 2007 6:30 pm

    By the courts? Nothing. There’s a better case to be made for legislative action, like laws prohibiting picketing within a certain distance of cemeteries.

    As for regular people, I don’t know which is better — counterprotests that block them from affecting the families, or just ignoring their sad little group. Shame and scorn don’t seem to work on these people…

  4. Chloe on November 1st, 2007 6:50 pm

    In so many cases, ignoring is enabling.

  5. djere.mobile on November 2nd, 2007 12:38 am

    Well, chloe, to silence them, we’ll need an agent on the inside, blueprints to their fortress of hate, and a bucket of chum.

    It won’t work forever, but maybe the five minutes we need to spray paint ‘I8PP’ on their wall.

    They’ll be so busy laughing about the whole thing they’ll call off the picketing.


  6. Chloe on November 2nd, 2007 5:11 pm

    I’ll bring the chum!

    From what I can tell, this family of lawyers wants to make money. They fund their trips through lawsuits brought against counter-protesters who assault them. If no one gives them a chance to produce lawsuits, they have no money! The problem is, there are too many hotheads out there who really just want to take a swing at those faces….

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