Happy Monday, devoted readers!
First, I’d like to more formally thank the previous few weeks’ bloggers Bug_Girl, TKingDoll, and sraiche. Their posts were smart and entertaining, and I hope they each return to the Skepchick Blog at some point in the very near future.
Second, because IÃ‚Â missed yesterday’s Sunday Night Sermon, I thought I’d make this post just a wee bit sacri-licious (credit to the Simpsons).
You all remember our good friend Fred Phelps, right? He’s the guy who did that web site, GodHatesFigs.com. Wait, sorry — I don’t think that’s quite right. Anyway, you get the idea. Fred and his church, Westboro Baptist, are so full of hate that they don’t even know how or when or at whom to express it, like a mental patient who bites his doctor because his mirror image frightens him.
For instance, they like to protest the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. Why? Because there are gay people.
Go on, read it again, I’ll wait. While I’m waiting, I think I’ll punch a pre-schooler in the face because I am morally opposed to the existence of the woodchuck. Take that, pre-schooler!
Certain states like Missouri have banned Phelps and his crew of loonies from shouting their particular brand of nonsense at mourning people, but now Westboro is fighting back by going to the courts to defend their “freedom of speech.” To accomplish this, they’ve teamed up with the ACLU.
Yowch. I’m a big fan of, well, freedom. I think the ACLU does very important work, and I believe that we must defend the freedoms of the most despicable people or else risk losing our own freedoms. I believe that being exposed to the stupid ideas and dogmas of creeps like Phelps or the KKK or the Holocaust deniers allows us to combat them more easily and destroy their influence more completely. So nowÃ‚Â we delve once more into the tricky territory of what is and is not considered free speech — the classic example is of one’s freedom to throw a fist ending where another’s nose begins, but real life seldom has such clear distinctions.
Last week, Jews in my community staged a pro-Israel rally outside my window (please note that the location of my window was merely coincidental and did not influence the chosen location of the rally, though I imagine it is inevitable that one day someone feels it necessary to chant and wave signs in front of my building to protest something I’ve done). At what point did the shouting crowd’s freedom of speech begin to legally interfere with my freedom to not be annoyed at all the ruckus while I’m trying to read my e-mails? About 9 pm, I think, which is when noise ordinances say you have to keep it the hell down because people are trying to sleep. Did the noise ordinance restrict the crowd’s freedom of speech? Yes. Was it necessarily a bad thing? Hells no.
That’s why I’m a bit torn here. Westboro Church really has no right to disturb the peace of mourning families — do they? According to the ACLU, the laws prohibit non-disorderly, non-disruptive protesting. From an ACLUÃ‚Â press release following a suit against Kentucky:
According to the ACLU brief, the new laws are so broad that they could make it a crime to whistle while walking down the street within earshot of a funeral or to stop for a conversation on a public sidewalk adjacent to a funeral home or place of worship while a funeral service is in progress.Ã‚Â
That lawsuit was filed on behalf of Bart McQueary, who has protested with Westboro on a number of occasions.
The new laws ban peaceful protests within 300 feet of a funeral, and would restrict McQueary and others from making sounds, displaying signs or distributing literature in a non-disruptive manner without approval from the family of the deceased or from the person conducting the service.
Now, I’m not even going to make jokes that a gay-hating asshole is named McQueary because that’s just too damn easy. Instead, I’ll just point out that this entire thing seems like nothing more than an intellectual exercise, since Westboro wouldn’t know how to protest in a non-disruptive manner if they all had their larynxes removed and were possessed by the undead spirit of Mahatma Gandhi.
If the new laws are, in fact, too severe to the point that they outlaw peaceful protest in a public place (apologies for the alliteration), then I agree that they should be repealed. However, I think the ACLU would do well to first find someone who has tried to peacefully protest at a funeral, and take up that case. Currently, they appear to be performing the equivalent of defending a person’s right to own a dog by championing the cause of bestiality club.