Freedom to speak
November 18, 2010
Fred Phelps is a despicable man. I generally do not like to make personal judgments when I don’t know someone, but I am more than willing to make an exception in this case.
If you do not know who Fred Phelps is, I have three words for you: “God hates fags.”
Phelps has been the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church (I use both terms loosely) since 1955. The “church” has approximately 70 members, 50 being his family. He has been the only pastor since its inception.
Now, as far as I can tell, the members of this “church” do little more than find the most offensive environments possible to spread their hate in the name of God. Most often, this means protesting at soldier’s funerals. Fabulous.
Oct. 6, Phelps stood before the Supreme Court arguing for his right to offend every fiber of my being.
Unfortunately, I agree with him.
As much as his message and tactics disgust me, I cannot deny that he has the right to use them. Ironically, that is what is so beautiful about America.
The first amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So much of me wants to yell, “No! Stop It! You cannot do this anymore!” But on what grounds? They are already required by law to be 1,000 feet away from any funeral and may not impede anyone from attending. As long as they do that and don’t get into any fistfights, they’re pretty much clear legally. Albert Snyder, the plaintiff, is arguing that they caused emotional damage.
Well, I don’t doubt that.
But, allowing speech to be curtailed or dictated on the basis of offense is a bad precedent. After all, is not the most offensive message the gospel? How long before the offense of the cross is considered emotionally damaging?
Not that Phelps is anywhere close to the truth or the gospel in his message. I am fairly certain he wouldn’t know the love of God if it smacked him in the face.
But I don’t want the government to be able to tell me what to say or think. And if that means I have to put up with a few Fred Phelps in my time, then so be it. He is likewise an American with the right to think and say whatever he feels—even if it is ignorance. America is not only the safe haven of those who agree with me, but of all people.