The Supremes and Westboro Baptist Church: The high price of freedom

Back when the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes had a feature called “point/counterpoint” featuring conservative pundit James J. Kilpatrick and liberal Shana Alexander, Kilpatrick opened a defense of the First Amendment rights of pornographer Larry Flynt by saying:

There’s an old saying that when you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas. Well I’m about to defend Larry Flynt and I’m itching all over.

Kilpatrick’s defense of Flynt’s Hustler magazine was simple: What the guy published may have been disgusting but his right to publish the garbage was, and should be, protected by the First Amendment.

The homophobes from Westboro Baptist Church

Kilpatrick’s dilemma came to mind this past week when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of a group of gay-bashing right wingers to demonstrate at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and claim that their deaths were punishment from God because gays are allowed to serve in the military under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Homophobic haters like those from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, and its gay-bashing minister Fred Phelps may represent the worst of American society but the same constitution that gives this web site the right to criticize our leaders also protects the right of others to dispense hate.

While it’s sad that the First Amendment gives such hate groups the right to protest at the funerals of soldiers who died protecting such freedoms, it’s also a fact that an amendment that protects the right of us to speak out minds must also protect those who use that right to dispense hatred, bigotry and intolerance.

As a member of The Patriot Guard, a group of motorcyclists — mostly veterans — who attend the funerals of soldiers killed in action and serve as human shields to keep the protests out of the view of the families, I use that same First Amendment to act in favor of those who served our nation.

And while I despise those who use the deaths of those who served our country as a platform to spread hate and homophobia I must reluctantly support their right to do so because if we allow selective application of that amendment to only those whose positions we support we defeat the entire concept of freedom of speech in this nation.

So in order to protect those who serve the best interests of our nation we must also protect those who choose to dishonor it.

Freedom comes at a high price and cases like the gay-bashers at Westboro Baptist Church reminds us of just how high that cost can — and must — be.

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Comments

  1. Sandune

    Speaker Gingrich is following in the wave of “America is God” and even bad publicity is more than he deserves. A half a dozen times, yesterday on the news, Newt has promised to take America back to God and no place else. For those of you who are believers in Newt’s God, your future is secure.

    No American will ever be able to share the rights found in the Bill of Rights after Newt and his religious posse is done with us. Now maybe most of you need the social laws legislated but many of us are insulted by this request.

    All sex is sinful unless it produces a fetus. The problem should be simple and Christians (male and female) should keep their pants on. For every time these hypocrites mess around, do they really feel they have fallen into Hell? What a glorious sensation it must be to make another commitment against sex and plan to keep it. Throwing themselves on the floor in front of a picture of Pat Robertson and crying for redemption is almost more than my theatrical mind can conger up. Shakespeare tried to put a play around redemption and failed to write one that the audiences could take seriously. The Greeks tried and having any number of Gods to forgive them did a pretty good job.,

    I have written for years that Pat Robertson and his band of comedians wound themselves up waiting for the moment to strike into the souls of people who called themselves Americans. Not being literate, they had no idea that the scenario was already a best-selling book and an excellent movie called Elmer Gantry.

    I have no problem with church goers and have used their facilities for years when my chamber music group wanted to perform. Had a problem with a Catholic Church who wanted my Bach program changed into Vivaldi. Whoops! We were proficient in both composers and both versions of Jesus Christ.

    The zeal shown by the religious right and their Social Conservative Caucuses (Cauci?) is enough to send me into Rap Music., Who will save America for Newt’s God? Back in the 60’s Pat Robertson was tossed out of the Goldwater campaign. Even the uber Christian Buckley said there was no place in the Party for this growing growth of hatred.

    What is stirring this new growth of hatred for Liberals? Must I say it here at CHB? The liberal candidate who became President is a black man………….There is nothing he can do to suit the White Christian Straight voters….

    My hope is that the American people will wake up and look at their mixed grandchildren who are not white, Christian or even straight. They are, however our greatest hope for the future. I saw an amazing change in my own family tree where I could never date an Oriental, Jewish, Arabic, or Catholic or homosexual as it would send my family to hell. I stirred that up very well and both my girls married Jewish men and my son married an Irish Catholic. As I buried my mother in the family plot in Woodland Cemetery I kicked up some dirt and felt the family would never again live in anger or bigotry.

    That was my donation to moral evolution that came from McNabbs, Pratts and, Prices May they live and die in their own hatred.

    The day every American stands for individual freedoms will be a day of truth and love. I attended an Evangelical meeting in Lake Havasu City AZ where t he list of infidels went on for 2 pages. I felt left out because atheists were not on the list. Evidently they made the first list issued 6 months before.

    Arizona was and is behind Newt Gingrich 100% and my neighbors wanted only a white Christian Straight man to lead them. The power given to the Federal Government to destroy infidels is very close to the leadership within the Republican Party.

    I left Arizona with a beaten view of the future until we drove over the border into California and I had a true epiphany that my old world would never be the future for my family and friends. My daughter pointed out that I went into an hour of giggling at the crossing. It was my own “Crossing the Rubicon” and it felt delicious.

  2. woody188

    …I despise those who use the deaths of those who served our country as a platform to spread hate and homophobia…

    It’s too bad few discuss why they were sent to their deaths in the first place. I wonder how many Big Macs are sold in Iraq daily thanks to their sacrifice. I despise those that would sacrifice our sons and daughters for their bottom line.

    Old Testament God was a son of a gun, all hellfire and brimstone. He’d turn you into a pillar of salt just for looking back at your home. Then came New Testament God, full of love and forgiveness. Seems like God is a paranoid schizophrenic. I guess that comes with being omnipotent.

    • griff

      Ha.

      God hates people who use God to hate other people!

      God hates people that teach their kids to use God to hate!

      I like it.

      Isn’t God supposed to signify love and forgiveness, tolerance and understanding for your fellow man? I guess they were busy picketing when they taught that in Sunday school.

  3. Harassment by religious extremist

    Jehovah’s Witnesses instigated court decisions in 1942 which involved cursing a police officer calling him a fascist and to get in your face at the door steps,….this same JW 1942 court decision upheld infamous Phelps hate church in 2011
    —-
    Danny Haszard

  4. Sandune

    What riles my anger is that none of those churches has to pay income tax. They get enormous coverage in the media and their donations are tax deductible. MSNBC declares a holiday on sanity every time the church insults our armed forces and anyone who has died. It’s the same media that shut down on Friday to cover the antics of Charlie Keen. They would not do it if their audience would decline at that time. Our culture thrives on the insanity of anyone well known.

    Who will be the next example of bad taste in America? In my world the worst taste of all is promoting the sins and sinners of our celebrities and leaders.

    I spent my early years with the Hollywood crowd and even today 60 years later there are millions of lies trying to take down some hard working actor or actress. We made a pledge to our pals in Hollywood that we not read Confidential Magazine who went to end of good taste to take someone down. I often write a paragraph or two on some old pal in Hollywood and several here write me to thank me for the effort. The rest think of me as an angry blowhard who has lived far too long. My old pal Elizabeth Taylor is not well and when she goes, I will never read a word from any source that tries to expose her for any reason. That woman is a human gem and it would be hard to find someone who hasn’t gained from her existence.

  5. Carl Nemo

    The ruling was in line with the Constitution and the right to express ourselves freely as long as we’re not inciting riots and causing physical harm to others. Frankly I’m surprised at this ruling in these gray valued times.

    Thomas Paine was spot-on with his admonition concerning interpretive, destructive, incrementalism of our founding docment to a point that we’ll all get bit in the butt bigtime. That’s were Bush & Co. has failed this nation by pushing the envelope to unfettered wire-tapping and surveillance without warrants, renditions and torture all of which still needs to be redressed by the courts. Seemingly our corrupt to spineless Congress won’t do so; ie., nullify the Patriot Act permanently. The very word ‘patriot’ can be a canard in these times since many folks thinking they are fine patriots really have a bent for a “my country right or wrong” mentality which can lead down the slippery slope to a statist monstrosity run amok such as in Nazi Germany prior to WWII.

    It’s getting bad to worse concerning our core freedoms and I’m disappointed that the Patriot Act along with all it’s unconstitutuional provisions hasn’t been moved up to Supreme Court level for interpretation relative to our founding document. In fact its not simply unconstitutional, but anti-such yet no one is moving this issue up to SCOTUS level for its rightful disposition which should be the deep six.

    As far as Griff’s comment about the kids; I agree it’s tragic that they live in housholds that are grooming them to become uneducated, uninformed future haters within our society.

    Carl Nemo **==

  6. griff

    He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. – Thomas Paine

    Pretty sick bunch of people. What really bothers me is those kids in the picture.

    But you are correct. In a free society, you have to take the good with the bad. It’s good that people like yourself shield the families from these retards.

    Live and let live.