Freedom of speech gone too far

Western Courier Staff

The first amendment is a beautifully ugly beast. Very few things on this earth are more heinous than disturbing a family’s grieving process, especially when the family is grieving the loss of a soldier. The Westboro Baptist Church has made it their goal to protest their causes despite the inconsiderate harm they cause to the loved ones of the fallen, not to mention the countless numbers of homosexuals they have alienated and degraded. In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled the WBC has the right to peacefully protest at Military funerals. In response, and in celebration of our first amendment rights, the staff of the Western Courier has decided to openly share how they feel about the ruling.

Ed Komenda – It’s as simple as this: If it weren’t for Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, the Westboro Baptist Church wouldn’t have the freedom to protest his funeral. And it’s because of Snyder (and the millions of soldiers who came before him and died on the battlefield) that American citizens are able to speak freely about any topic they wish. It’s a shame that this institution used its freedom, which Snyder valiantly fought for, to project its ignorance and hate rather than proactively pursuing solutions to the REAL problems plaguing this country.

Beth Clothier – We in the newspaper industry shelter under the umbrella of free speech, but how far is too far? In effect, cannot the protests of WBC also be called hate crimes? They spread hateful messages, cause emotional distress and they degrade others, treating them as less than human. Allowing these people to continue to picket funerals of soldiers and children such as Christina Taylor Green, who was killed in the Tucson shooting incident earlier this year, because they protest a matter of public debate is a win for free speech, but a major loss for humanity.

Michael Lowe – Funerals are one of the only places in which Americans – or at least the vast majority of Americans – have mutually agreed that derisive ideology is not welcome. However, the First Amendment must be respected at all costs, even for those who abuse it. Instead of arguing ethics and doctrines, conscientious Americans must modestly show protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church the respect that they have denied military families, even though these protesters contradict true Christian values every day.

Bill Welt – As a member of the press, I’m a staunch supporter of the First Amendment. However, the ruling in favor of the anti-gay protesters is a disgrace to our country. There should be nothing legal about hotheads professing slander and libel against a fellow serviceman who sacrificed his life for our country. The protestors inflicted harm and injury upon the veteran’s family and friends, and that should have forced the Court to ban the protestors. The First Amendment does not grant protection of such libelous acts.

Alyse Thompson – It is absolutely disgusting that the Westboro Baptist Church would use something as sensitive as a military funeral to push its agenda of bigotry and hatred. However, as an aspiring journalist, it is gratifying to see the Supreme Court uphold the rights of Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Speech, no matter how appalling the Church’s message is. I hope, after all the media coverage, these “Christians” will see themselves objectively and finally realize the severe pain they are causing.

Bethany Bekas – Military funerals are private, sacred events to commemorate the lives of the men and women who fought for this country. Anyone who ignores this fact should hardly call themselves God-loving, or worthy of God’s love. The fact that these protesters are spreading hatred in the name of religion is not only bigotry in disguise, but offensive to a country that honors freedom of belief.

Matt Fischer – I love the First Amendment. It’s a great tool and it allows citizens to have a voice. But in this instance, one of the greatest aspects of our country has turned against the citizens of America. I applaud the one Supreme Court justice for voting against the right to demonstrate at military funerals. There needs to be a line and I believe that the Supreme Court dropped the ball here. Coming from a family with a strong military background, I feel very strongly about this issue. A simple Google search would show the absurd ideologies that Westboro Baptist Church follows. An image search shows even more when viewing a young boy holding a very shocking sign while demonstrating against gay rights.

The most ironic aspect is that without the soldiers, without war, the Westboro Baptist Church would not have the right to perform these demonstrations. What is also funny is that they claim God hates America. OK, so then leave. If they follow God as much as they say they do, they would want to go to a place that God loves.

Needless to say, there is a special spot in hell reserved for them. They should simply take their crazy ways and leave.

Tom Loftus – The Westboro Baptist Church, whose congregation numbers less than 100, believes that their protests at soldiers’ funerals against “sexual deviants” somehow serve as a warning for people to repent. Westboro Church members believe that funerals – a time when people are thinking about mortality – are a perfect place to rattle their sabers about hell and damnation, citing evidence in the Bible to support their actions.

Problem is, when you cherry-pick Bible verses to serve your own purposes while selectively ignoring others, you are then proclaiming yourself to have wisdom equal to that of the Supreme Being that you purport to follow.

In Matthew 9:36, it was said of Jesus, “He was moved with compassion.”

Somehow I suspect that Jesus would have more compassion for the so-called sinners of the world than for Fred Phelps and his band of hate-mongers.