Free Speech

I’m sure everyone has heard about the protesters at the funeral of a Marine who died in Iraq. Just to recap:

Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, 20, died while serving in Iraq in 2006. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a small congregation in Topeka, Kan., headed by the controversial Rev. Fred Phelps, protested at his funeral, claiming that the soldiers were evil because they defend a country that tolerates homosexuality.

This seems completely loony, inappropriate, irreprehensible, and I would be completely enraged if I were his parent.  Every time I hear this story it pisses me off! I can’t imagine what I would have done if there would have been protesters at my dad’s funeral…I’d probably be in jail right now.  Anyway, this Marine died for our country! I appreciate that even though I don’t think we should ever have been in Iraq, because I still support our troops. Yet, the church was out there with “signs that said, ‘God hates you,’You’re in hell,’ ‘Semper Fi Fags,’.  Real classy, not to mention Christian, stuff.

So the Marine’s father sued the church, won a settlement, it was appealed, yada yada, it went to the Supreme Court and yesterday the ruling came out in favor of the church. Argh! 

This is why law is so interesting to me.  I am definitely a passionate person.  I get really worked up about issues. I start speaking louder (some people, uh hum Brian, might say I’m yelling, but I’m not) when I get going a controversial topic or talk about something I strongly believe in.  I want to right wrongs, rescue puppies, feed the homeless…you get the point. So while I am very much motivated by emotion, I also like to see the rational side of things and appreciate decisions that are made as such. 

This is a case in point. As Chief Justice Roberts pointed out, ‘the members of the church “had the right to be where they were.”’ And, ‘that the protesters’ speech “cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt.”’ I have to agree with him in that, because I strongly believe that the right to free speech in America is one of the best things about this country.  Just look at the Middle East right now. But how can I reconcile that with my feelings of disgust and contempt for the protesters? 

I guess what I assume is that Americans have the decency and intellect to use their rights in a somewhat appropriate manner.  I mean, I find the guy that stands outside Forever 21 by the cable car stop shouting about how everyone who has premarital sex is led by the devil and going to hell to be distasteful and annoying, but he doesn’t hold a candle to those wackos at the Westboro Baptist Church. 

So I figure what I can take away from all of this is that even if I want emotional justice, it’s OK that it doesn’t happen if a right that I feel is fundamental to a democratic society is upheld. Also, that my dad was right when he said that when you assume something it just makes an ass out of u + me.


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