On March 2, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Westboro Baptist Church’s right to picket funerals, espousing anti-gay rhetoric such as “God Hates Fags,” “You’re Going to Hell” and, as shown in the picture here, “Fags Are Worthy Of Death.” In an 8-1 vote, the Justices ruled that such behavior was protected speech under the First Amendment.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:
But under the First Amendment, he went on, “we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Instead, the national commitment to free speech, he said, requires protection of “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.
In the case at issue, the church picketed the military funeral of Matthew Snyder. Interestingly, Matthew was not gay. Matthew’s father sued and obtained a $5 million verdict against the church, which has now been set aside.
Common sense & decency absent as wacko “church” allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers’ funerals but we can’t invoke God’s name in public square
Subsequently, in an interview with the Daily Caller, Palin sought to “clarify” her remarks, saying:
Obviously my comment meant that when we’re told we can’t say ‘God bless you’ in graduation speeches or pray before a local football game but these wackos can invoke God’s name in their hate speech while picketing our military funerals, it shows ridiculous inconsistency.
Assuming Palin’s frustration is genuine, which I do for purposes of this article, I can understand where she is coming from. Frankly, I am saddened that she felt the need to so quickly, sort of retract/clarify herself. Where she seems to be coming from is quite legitimate, if you ask me. Why is that, in certain circumstances, we cannot invoke religious verbiage or iconography – even if done so peacefully – but this rogue band of crazy, half-witted, inbred hate-mongers – pretending to be followers of Jesus Christ – get the full panoply of First Amendment freedoms?
As an attorney, I can – intellectually – comprehend the arguments on both sides. On a personal level, I can even support the outcome, belonging as I do to a traditionally dis-enfranchised group that often needs First Amendment protection to make its own public case. From a viewpoint based purely on political strategy, I can even see the benefit in exposing such idiots to the light of day rather than forcing them into the shadows where they fester like a stinking boil on the butt of Lady Liberty herself.
And yet, the difficulty I have – and which Palin may be trying her best to express – is that it does seem to be the case that this “church’s” hate-filled expression has received judicial imprimatur, while arguably neutral, civic expressions that merely touch upon religion are so frequently scorned or called into legal question.
What message are we sending? Peaceful, neutral expressions of faith are a no go. But, hateful expression is in. In my opinion, true Christians ought to be concerned about this decision. And, this “church” ought to be ashamed of themselves.
Furthermore, if they truly believe in Hell, they ought to be very afraid. As my granny would have said, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
- Anti-gay church allowed to picket funerals – Sydney Morning Herald (news.google.com)
- Supreme Court allows military funeral anti-gay protests (reuters.com)
- Sarah Palin Takes Issue With Supreme Court and Westboro Baptist Church (blogcritics.org)