“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…” excerpt from the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Are the actions of the members of the Westboro Baptist Church deplorable? Yes. Are the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church members insensitive and over the top? I think most people would absolutely say yes. I am not going to defend in any way the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church.
That being said I will defend the 8-1 Supreme Court ruling upholding the Church’s right to free speech and to assembly. Here is what Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion: “Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.” We cannot pick and choose who says what and where no matter how hurtful or hateful. Sometimes the right to freedom of speech can be quite frustrating, but it will set a very bad precedent if we start limiting the rights of people we do not agree with, no matter how abhorrent.
I can only imagine the pain that was and is still felt by Albert Snyder, whose marine son’s funeral was picketed by Westboro Baptist. Mr. Snyder, his family and deceased son in no way deserve what has happened to them. I feel sorry that they have had to endure such an atrocity and cannot help feeling angered myself by their predicament. In the end the people of Westboro Baptist Church will have to answer to an even higher power than the Supreme Court for their actions of disrespecting the solemn event of the funerals of deceased servicemen.