Thursday, March 3, 2011

Supreme Court Decision Painful But Necessary

If you truly believe in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, than yesterday's (March 2, 2011) ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of a hateful group of people who protests military funerals is painful but necessary in a free society.

In an 8-1 decision, the Court threw out an $11 million verdict against the Westboro Baptist Church, a Topeka, Kansas, organization that protests military funerals across the country under the premise that the United States is too tolerant of sin, and soldiers are killed as punishment for this tolerance.  The Westboro group is particularly vicious about society tolerating the gay culture, and it's members are often seen at these funerals holding signs proclaiming that "God Hates Fags."

Westboro was sued by the Synder family of Maryland after the group protested the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Synder, who was killed in Iraq.  In a jury decision, the family was originally awarded damages for emotional distress, but the Supreme Court ruling has overturned that jury decision.

As despicable as the Westboro group is, and I have seen them in person, the first amendment protects virtually all speech in the public arena no matter how abhorrent and unpopular it may be.  It may be of small comfort to the Synder family that those who agree with the decision find the Westboro Church as unsavory as they do, but there is a greater precedent here.  If we allow the courts to ban any unpopular political expression, what will happen when someone believes something that any of you or I say to be unacceptable speech and sues one of us.  It would be at that time that we would be happy the court ruled in favor of the Westboro group.

Like most Americans, I have nothing but sympathy for the Synder family or any family that has to endure the unwarranted intrusion of the Westboro Church into a solemn period of mourning for a lost family member who dies in service to our country.  However, there is still a very effective way to combat these hateful Westboro people.  When I lived in Lemont, Illinois, there was a funeral for a soldier in one of the community churches.  The Westboro group came to picket, but hardly anyone attending the service saw them because a wonderful group of biker veterans surrounded the church and held up American flags so that the soldier's family and other mourners would not notice the hideous demonstrators.  In fact, the whole community rallied around the family to almost totally drown out any effect of the Westboro group.

I still firmly believe in God, and I hope that God builds a special place in hell for anyone who inflicts pain on others in his name.  If that were true, then I don't think anyone from the Westboro Church should be joyfully anticipating the hereafter.

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