The Westboro Case: The Supreme Court got this one wrong…very, very wrong!

Here’s an update: Just let ’em keep talking…Click here and brace yourself.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 to allow the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at military funerals. They’re simply wrong…

Prohibiting protests at military funerals would NOT infringe on Westboro’s 1st Amendment rights. First of all- the 1st Amendment was originally “speaking” to the issue of seditious speech, and in that context it was to prevent the government from limiting political commentary.

The Westboro group is not making political commentary- they’ve decided to attach themselves to what is, by their own words, a social and moral issue. That is to say it’s their contention that somehow God is punishing the US because we allow gays to serve in the military.

Next is the fact- albeit one that has been ignored for some time, that the framers made it clear that your right to expression (or anything else) does not mean you have cart blanche to infringe on the rights of others. Westboro can in fact appear in media, take out ads if they wish, publish their own materials and even start their own TV network if they’d like without restriction or interference (provided they act lawfully in getting appropriate permits etc…).

What gives them the right to disrupt the peaceable assembly of a private group- those attending a funeral; to further their own social/political agenda? The court made their decision largely centered on the argument that the Westboro group is engaged in political speech- their criticism of government policy concerning homosexuality in the military. I’ve already made the contention that this is largely a social and moral issue- not a political issue. If they have an issue with the law, their demonstrations should be focused at their representatives and those that have the power to change the law, not the innocent participants in what we all would acknowledge is one of our most sacred and private rituals.

“’Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain,’ Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority opinion. ‘On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.’”
(Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/03/02/westboro-funeral-pickets-protected-speech-high-court-rules/#ixzz1FXfvMZuq)

To be blunt, a dead soldier and his or her family should not be the object of a protest over the government’s policy regarding gays in the military. Their issue should be with the government, not the serviceman that had nothing to do policy and who did nothing but serve honorably- emphasis on the word “serve.”

The lone dissenter, Judge Alito took the right stand but could have been stronger in his opinion:

“Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case,” Alito wrote. “In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like petitioner. I therefore respectfully dissent.” (Also from FOX News, see previous link.)

The petitioner he refers to was Matthew Snyder, the dead Marine in whose name the suit was filed.

It is not only “not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like (the) petitioner,” it is in fact immoral and should have been illegal to allow such a demonstration. Banning Westboro and similar groups from interfering with a private funeral does not infringe on Westboro’s rights to free expression; rather it infringes on the right of peaceable assembly to the family and friends of the deceased soldier. The fact that it is a “military” funeral does not make it a public assembly- you might argue that point only if the funeral were held on federal public property like Arlington; which would open up an entirely different debate.

There are two solutions here:

1. Craft local, regional and/or state regulations expanding even further the restricted area around a funeral in which a public demonstration can be held. I would suggest a reasonable distance would be 100 miles.

Or…

2. The next time Fred Phelps and his disrespectful band of morally retarded followers target a military funeral, I suggest organizing a “cushion” group. Call on thousands of your friends and neighbors, get up very early and demonstrate in force around the burial ground. Your signs should express no ill will or malice toward the Westboro group- ignore them. Simply create a barrier of compassion and gratitude protecting the funeral from the hatred and ignorance of Phelps and his followers. Your signs should express gratitude for our fallen hero and for the family that sacrificed one of their own in service.

If Phelps comes to my area- rest assured I will be calling on you.

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About jimbouchard

Martial arts transformed Jim’s self-perception from former drug abuser and failure to successful entrepreneur and Black Belt. As a speaker and author of Amazon bestseller Think Like a Black Belt, Jim tours nationally presenting his philosophy of Black Belt Mindset for corporate and conference audiences. He's a regular guest on TV and radio programs including FOX News, BBC Worldview and FOX Across America. View all posts by jimbouchard

One response to “The Westboro Case: The Supreme Court got this one wrong…very, very wrong!

  • procureinsights

    Jim,

    I keep going back to the reference to the Constitution not being a Suicide Pact.

    First we have the debate regarding the 911 Hard Hat Pledge Movement objecting to the Ground Zero Mosque being built, then we have the Serial Suicide Killer William Melchert-Dinkel claiming that he had the right because of the Freedom of Speech to stalk vulnerable people on the Internet and convince them to commit suicide while he watched on his webcam, and now this?

    At the risk of being repetitive, here is what Jefferson said back in 1803 that would serve us all well to remember today:

    “a strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means.”

    By allowing people to challenge the Constitution within the context of Jefferson’s statement, even when said challenge is in the service of their own selfish and dubious ends, is in and of itself an important part of the process associated with a living document which reflects the best interests of We The People.

    Like the debate surrounding the Ground Zero Mosque and other contentious issues of a similar nature, including The Westboro Case, the bigger question is how do we respond to extremist views while maintaining the integrity of what made and makes America great?

    Taking this big picture view, what will be accomplished by stopping the Westboro group from spouting forth their reprehensible rhetoric? Like the Neo-Nazi march in Skokie Illinois, when a lawyer of Jewish decent represented, and then defended the hate group’s right to march down the town’s main street he was asked how could a Jew defend the very movement that so cruelly killed so many Jewish people during the Second World War. His response I believe still carries as much weight today as it did more than 30 years ago when he suggested that if we stop the Neo-Nazi’s from marching, and sacrifice the very principles of Freedom of Speech that made America great, we have in essence become like them.

    While I personally find the Westboro group’s beliefs and practices to be repugnant, the bigger question is simply this . . . is the foundation of American values and society so fragile so as not to withstand the rantings of extremist elements on either side of an issue without crumbling?

    While Melchert-Dinkel is on trial for clearly breaking a law, neither the builders of the Ground Zero Mosque nor the Westboro Group have, by their mere activities broken any laws. If the very laws that enable them to carry on these activities do not correspond with We The People’s values, then we should change the laws being mindful of the potential undermining consequences such changes would bring about in the Land of the Free.

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