The ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., held that the signs and writings of the Westboro Baptist Church, which included anti-gay and anti-military messages, are protected by the First Amendment.Despite the flack this may get me, the court is right!
I have ridden a number of missions with the Patriot Guard whose mission is to shield families from the actions of these wacko's. I personally find their, the Westboro Church protesters, actions to be beyond words, however repugnant and disgusting would be a start. In America I am free to call them the assholes that I believe they are.
But as the first amendment, keeping in mind that this is the FIRST amendment (which would seem to accord it primary importance), protects my right to say the above, it also protects theirs.
The first amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.The first amendment also includes "Freedom of assembly":
From the Cornell University Law School: Freedom of expression consists of the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the implied rights of association and belief. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights. The First Amendment has been interpreted by the Court as applying to the entire federal government even though it is only expressly applicable to Congress. Furthermore, the Court has interpreted, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments.
It is because of the first amendment that the Patriot Guard and other organizations are able to engage in actions to shield these families from the abuse of the protesters.
It may feel at times that the Constitution of the United States is a like a double edged sword and many would like to change it to suit "their" needs. But the constitution was not designed to protect any one particular segment of society. It was designed to "protect the rights" of all Americans. Despite what some may want, all Americans do not think alike. They have the right to disagree and voice their disagreements.
When the government tries to tweak the First Amendment it is generally with bad result.
After World War I, several cases involving laws limiting speech came before the Supreme Court. The Espionage Act of 1917 imposed a maximum sentence of twenty years for anyone who caused or attempted to cause "insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States." Under the Act, there were over two thousand prosecutions. For instance, one filmmaker was sentenced to ten years imprisonment because his portrayal of British soldiers in a movie about the American Revolution impugned the good faith of an American ally, the United Kingdom. The Sedition Act of 1918 went even further, criminalizing "disloyal," "scurrilous" or "abusive" language against the government.Remember, the British were our first enemy. How many of us today use abusive language against the Government? Under the Espionage Act of 1917 how many of us today would be in jail?
The court has tinkered with the first amendment on a number of occasions. At one time completely contradicting our Declaration of independence which states:
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
When Congress created the Smith act in 1940 it was aimed at communists at the time, however was worded as in earlier rulings as, any speech that constituted a "clear and present danger". Congress was deemed to have the right to prevent this "clear and present danger" speech.
The same congress that has created the Patriot act and did away with Habeas Corpus and (14th ammendment due process. (Tallahassee and other community Red Light running ordinances are good examples as they call for automatic seizure of property). The same congress that has engaged in taxation without representation (remember the British that the court ruled we could not malign?), by taking your tax dollars and giving it to the fat cat bankers. Or gave your money to other people to buy cars with, i.e. "Cash For Clunkers".
The court began attempting to correct some infringements on the rights of speech in 1969 when it ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio,
[Our] decisions have fashioned the principle that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.Which still, in our mind, conflicts with the Declaration of Independence.
Probably the wisest and closest to the constitutional meaning of the First Amendment interpretation was made by
Justice William J. Brennan, Jr when he asserted in 1989 in relation to Texas v. Johnson,
"if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable."Currently a somewhat disturbing practice has developed wherein "Free Speech Zones" are established
effectively isolating protesters from those whom they choose to protest against. This Practice was widely practiced/expanded during the Bush (II) presidency and is subject to various lawsuits. IT is somewhat Orwellian in nature. One can picture the British rounding up the "Minutemen" putting them in cages and telling them, O.K. holler the British are coming all you like now.
The Westboro Church and others like them are the price we pay for our own liberties and freedoms.
It is a slippery slope as the Supreme Court has learned, when one starts playing around with the constitution and starts dictating who can say what, when and where. There is an imminent danger clause in Free speech rulings. Can that apply in these instances. Apparently the court has decided not. The court is relying on Americans to take a part in protecting free speech.
Does that mean that we can not engage in our own freedom of speech and assembly? NO! We can do as the Patriot Guard and others have been doing. I suspect more creativity could be employed to be more effective. I believe we are duty bound and morally obligated to respect and honor the soldier who stands for our liberties when so many of us will not.
Part of that honor and respect is remembering:
The American Soldier is duty bound to uphold the constitution of the United States. He/she does so
that you and I might disagree and voice disagreements.
Yes the Westboro Church members are disgusting and we should continue to do what we do.
However this begs the bigger question: Westboro Church members are nothing more than irritating mosquitoes, what are we as "Patriots" doing to address the larger dishonor and disrespect our servicemen are subject to?
What are we doing regarding the corrupt politicians that send our soldiers into harms way over lies and oil?
What are we doing regarding the the still unaccounted for POW's/MIA's that the corrupt politicians would forget?
What are we doing to insure that the humiliation and sub par medical care that the soldier gets in the Walter Reeds around the country stops?
In other words, it's not difficult to stand against a few punks with signs. It would appear that it is extremely difficult for the general populace to find the balls to stand against the government that perverts the very constitution the soldier dies to protect!
So yes, the Westboro Church protesters make me sick. The silent sheeple that bow their heads and do nothing, that would break into a line of mourners on the way to a soldiers funeral, that never served their country yet sit in their easy chair with a beer watching a football game when a dead soldier comes home, that see the injustice yet feign blindness, that claim they belong to some church and absolve themselves from any responsibility by regurgitating crap about not being concerned with earthly matters as their reward will be in heaven, yeah you know who you are. Yes, the Westboro Church members make me sick, the others who hide in Patriots clothing make me engage in projectile vomiting!Add to Technorati Favorites