Don’t ban hate speech, but educate

Westboro Baptist Church needs a lesson in tolerance

By on March 2, 2011

God hates fags. AIDS cures fags. Thank God for dead soldiers.

Imagine showing up to the funeral of someone you love and seeing these hateful words displayed across signs of delusion from members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

The WBC, headed by Fred Phelps and his family in Topeka, Kan., spews this filth on the regular. Whether they’re picketing on street corners or at funerals of prominent figures in the news, the WBC is determined to spread their hate speech.

Recently, the WBC picketed Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral because she had two more children with her husband John Edwards after their 16-year-old son died in a car accident. They claim Edwards is now “a resident of hell, where her rebellion and rage will take full flower.”

How can this hate-mongering group continue to spread these blasphemous words? Why is it necessary to desecrate a day meant to celebrate a person’s life?

Albert Snyder sued the Phelps family for intentional infliction of emotional distress in 2006 after the WBC picketed the funeral of his son Matthew, who died serving in Iraq.

Lawyers speaking on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in this case the “First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion are designed to protect the right of speakers to voice their views on matters of public concern and to express their religious convictions.”

Five years after the funeral, the Supreme Court is still reviewing the case after different rulings from the lower courts.

Should Phelps and co. be protected under the First Amendment, or did the WBC go too far?

In January, lawmakers in Arizona indirectly addressed the WBC when they swiftly passed a bill to ban protests at or near funeral sites. This occurred after the group threatened to picket the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, a victim of the Tucson shootings. The WBC claimed “God sent the shooter to deal with idolatrous America.”

While the Supreme Court decision on Snyder v. Phelps is yet to be decided, the Court is in a precarious situation. Side with Snyder, and the Court may impede on the First Amendment right to free speech.

It seems likely that evil will prevail over good. The Supreme Court needs to set a precedent that allows protesters an opportunity to congregate peacefully, while keeping a far enough distance from the funeral site to respect grieving families.

At an early age, you’re taught to treat others as you would like to be treated. As much fun as it’d be to knock Phelps off his pulpit and retaliate against members of the WBC, it wouldn’t solve anything.

The WBC doesn’t need condemnation, but education. While their protests are upsetting, it’s even more sad to know children are born into households that promote hate against homosexuality and differing religions like Judaism.

Lessons in tolerance and respect are necessary in order for change. How else can this country move forward without complete acceptance of everyone?

 

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About Matt Busekroos

Matt Busekroos
Email: publisher@quchronicle.com
Twitter: @mattybooz
Year: 2012
Major: Print journalism
Hometown: Shrewsbury, Mass.
Dream Job: Writer for an entertainment trade magazine