Thursday, August 19, 2010

Westboro Baptist Church Cuddles with ACLU

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Constitution is the document that gives structure to our government, and, through its first ten amendments, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, provides a list of civil liberties for its citizenry.  And of those ten amendments, none is more cited, or maligned, or as important as the First.   It is the First Amendment that guarantees our freedom of the press, freedom to assemble peacefully, freedom to petition our government for the redress of grievances,  freedom to worship (or not) as we please, and the right to speak freely. 

The Constitution of the United States of America applies to everyone residing within this country’s borders, as well as to many Americans who are living abroad – such as members of our military.  It protects the rights of Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, homosexuals, prisoners, undocumented workers and their children, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, libertines, and even vegans. 

The Constitution also protects the rights of stupid and mean people.  It is the First Amendment that gives Nazis the right to assemble, practice their hate speech, and hand out their disgusting pamphlets.    Dr. Laura Schlessinger said that she is abandoning her radio program so that she may regain her First Amendment rights.   She apparently feels that she has a Constitutional right to spew racial epithets over the air, and sadly, she probably does.    The First Amendment guarantees the rights of free speech to everyone, even bigots.

It is the American Civil Liberties Union, a group routinely demonized by conservatives, which is often on the front line fighting to maintain the rights outlined in the first ten amendments.  But in guarding our civil liberties, the ACLU often has to hold its collective nose and defend the rights of people and groups that decent people would strive to avoid.    

Case in point:   The state of Missouri passed two laws in 2006 to keep protestors away from funerals.  The laws were written to keep the odious Fred Phelps family of the Westboro Baptist Church away from the funerals of American servicemen who  died in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  (The Phelps’s are raging homophobes who have somehow reached the convoluted conclusion that the death of Americans in wars is God’s punishment for our government’s condoning homosexuality.

The Phelps’ clan, in the personage of odious Fred’s odious daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, enlisted the aid of the ACLU to go to court and defend their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly, rights they felt were being usurped by the two Missouri statutes.   This week a federal judge agreed that the crazies in the Westboro Baptist Church have the right, as outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, to express their “free speech” by demonstrating at funerals.

The decision will be appealed, but it is unlikely that it will be overturned.  A Federal Appeals Court has previously ruled that “there was no compelling government interest in protecting people from unwanted speech outside of their homes.

Other states are passing similar statutes, and are likely to meet with similar court decisions – because the Constitution cannot pick and choose who it will protect.  It is there for all of us – even Laura Schlessinger and the Phelps’ family. 

(For a look directly into the abyss of hell - and to learn more about the Phelps’ family, check out their website at .  Prepare to be disgusted!)  

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

It seems to me there is another approach to constraining odious speech from this hate group masquerading as church.

The First Amendment is made applicable to the States via the Fourteenth Amendment, which is why law outlawing the Phelps' clan's repulsive rhetoric will always fail.

Let the vermin spew their loathsome language during their protests. Then let the aggrieved families sue the individuals and Westboro for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Westboro claims that their protests are always peaceful. I guess they draw the line at actually hitting people. Left to their own devices I have seen them obstruct city sidewalks to the point that they are nose to nose with the targets of their attacks.

Having persons screaming vulgar nonsense in your face, so close as to breathe their bad breath, is not peaceful.

Police can maintain open streets and sidewalks under the routine exercise of providing for the public safety.

Of those two choices the litigation by the families is preferable. The intentional infliction of emotional distress, which must be plead and proved, carries the sanction of punitive damages.

Westboro is free to make their point and those injured by that point are free to sue Westboro, and its members individually, into oblivion.