Westboro ‘church’ does not deserve First Amendment protection

October 14, 2010 — by Deborah Soung

The day is overcast as the family and friends of a fallen soldier file into his funeral. The funeral of a soldier should be sacred, solemn and respectful, but a group of picketers lies in wait, holding signs branded with slogans such as “THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS” and “GOD HATES FAGS,” and singing twisted parodies of hymns which express hate instead of love.

This malicious group, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) from Topeka, Kans., has conducted over 30,000 similar pickets across the country, all with the shared theme of intense hatred and bigotry. Albert Snyder, the father of a dead Marine whose funeral was picketed, has taken WBC leader Fred Phelps to court on the grounds the “intentional infliction of emotional stress.”

To prove intentional infliction of emotional stress, Snyder must provide evidence of outrageous conduct and invasion of privacy. Though the WBC’s behavior is obviously out of line, the federal appeals court ruled for the WBC because of the First Amendment. In the Supreme Court, though the justices could rule in Phelps’s favor for the same reason, they also have the chance to overturn this case if they decide the WBC’s protest is considered outrageous conduct.

The irony of the federal court’s ruling is a bitter pill for the victims of the WBC. The WBC teaches its children that America, because of its tolerance toward gays, divorce and abortion, is a sinful country, and therefore, picketing the funeral of a soldier who defends this country is justified. And now America’s constitution protects them from being prohibited from aggravating the wounds of the grieving acquaintances of dead soldiers.

This cult, which began in 1955, preaches that God hates gays, Jews, soldiers, America and basically anyone who is not a supporter of their church. The WBC would have you believe that hell is going to be extremely crowded when we all inevitably wind up there.

Its inhumane disrespect exhibited toward the dead and the grieving is utterly astounding. These people gain happiness from causing others pain under the guise of spreading God’s word; they are heartless creatures who have the shamelessness to encourage their children to hold signs emblazoned with “THANK GOD FOR AIDS,” “PLANES CRASH, GOD LAUGHS,” “THANK GOD FOR 9/11,” and “GOD HATES AMERICA.”

The question the Supreme Court must answer is whether or not the WBC has stretched the boundaries of the freedom of speech. Because laws are based on previous court rulings, if the WBC wins Snyder vs. Phelps, such hurtful protests can be legally held at funerals in the future.

Freedom of speech was created so ideas could be expressed and spur thinking and advancement forward, not so that citizens could hurt and mock others. For example, in 1975, many students began to protest the Vietnam war. This was justified because their protesting had a point: to put an end to the suffering of both Vietnamese citizens and American soldiers.

The WBC protests everything and therefore do not encourage critical thinking, but rather, mindless hatred. They fight to increase the suffering of humans, which is everything America stands against. Because of this, the WBC does not deserve the protection of the First Amendment.

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