I usually stay out of politics on here (really, who wants to hear me ramble about how screwed up we are but, when compared to the rest of the world, are actually the ideal union?) but a lot of my friends have been up in arms over the recent Westboro Baptist Church and the favorable Supreme Court decision for them.
First off, this church is a scam. It is nothing more than a familial group of lawyers provocatively attempting to get someone or something to assault them. The minute someone does, they sue everybody who was there (state, county, city, individual, etc) for whatever they can. And since Westboro has cameras with them wherever they go (and usually their assailants do not) they have favorable evidence in court that they were only holding a “peaceful” demonstration and they were attacked without cause.
Now, that is debatable by lawyers (and apparently, Westboro may not be much of a church but they are sure one hell of a good law firm), but the issue at hand isn’t how deplorable they are as human beings but rather our own brilliant Constitution and Amendment covers them when they protest at soldier’s funerals. Which today, the Supreme Court ruled it is consitutional for them to protest all they want. I applaud the court for this decision.
Wait, what, you ask. You agree with these people?
I agree with the court’s ruling. I do not agree with Westboro Baptist.
I assume everyone who comes to this website has read Orwell’s 1984. Most of you even remember the old Soviet Union or, for a more current example, Venezuela. You’ve seen how freedom of speech is squashed in the “interest of the people”. But the problem when you go down that road is that there is no stopping a freefall into an authoritarian state. Porn? Eh, I’ve seen it, but does it offend me? Not really. Should it be banned? No, because it is a form of speech that has been ruled upon by the Supreme Court (see Larry Flynn). It is protected, and that means we can continue to be inundated with clever names like John Rambone and Courtney Love (wait, wrong media… my bad).
You take away one facet of free speech, and suddenly you have very well-meaning people clamping down on everything. Offensive protests like Westboro, if banned, can lead to all protests and rallies being banned because someone, some obscure busybody or well-meaning person, finds it offensive. Suddenly our First Amendment is on shaky ground and our right to peaceably assemble to air our grievances can be outlawed.
Granted, this is worst case scenario, but imagine if the ruling had been reverse. Imagine if the court’s ruled that the protests are offensive and violate people’s rights. Suddenly you have states using the decision to outlaw certain parties from protesting or gathering. Imagine if Alabama banned the Democratic Party from assembling to protest, or California banned the Tea Party or Republicans. Imagine if pro-lifers were kicked out of states where abortion is a very much taboo subject, and the pro-choice crowd is not allowed to protest elsewhere? Suddenly you have an already fractured country splitting even further. You have states where one type of protest is illegal and others aren’t. Then everybody clamps down and we are no longer to assemble to air our grievances.
So today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a group of parasitic individuals who sue everyone and everything who assault or attacks them. This is good, because it means that people like me can still protest against them and enjoy my First Amendment.