The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) announced on October 6, 2011, that it would hold one of its infamous protests at the funeral of Apple founder Steve Jobs. The church attempts to justify this by explaining that while Jobs lived, he had a large platform but did not use it to glorify God. In an ironic twist the announcement was delivered via Twitter and sent through an iPhone. Religious extremists like the members of the WBC clearly demonstrate that the United States needs more than freedom of religion. It needs freedom from religion as well – at least from the kind that uses free speech as a club.
Members of the WBC have protested many locations and events. Examples include, but are by no means limited to:
The school attended by President Obama’s children, because the WBC hates Obama
Albany High School for showing a play based on the story of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man murdered due to his sexual orientation, because they hate gay people Hamilton High School, for having a gay-straight alliance Jewish institutions, because they hate Jewish people Other Christian churches, because the WBC members feel other churches don’t hate enough The funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, deceased wife of politician John Edwards, for daring to have more children after their first son was killed in a car accident The funerals of American military personnel, because the WBC believes they deserved to die for serving in the US armed forces Professional sporting events, because they regard attendance at such events as idolatry
According to the WBC web site they plan many further protests across the country.
The Constitution guarantees citizens the right to free speech. WBC members exercise that right with insulting vocabulary and mechanical regularity. The most disturbing thing about their ideals is that according to the Scripture quoted their actions can actually be justified. They carefully select only the most violent, damning and hateful verses to support their positions on issues, but the verses do exist within the Christian Bible. The freedom to express their beliefs should be suspended when they cross the line of causing harm to others.
It’s already understood that yelling “Fire!” in a crowded, dark movie theater is not a protected form of free speech. The protection is removed from such actions because of the harm that can be caused as a mass of stampeding people flee from a room they believe to be ablaze. The risk of harm outweighs the right to free expression.
While WBC members do not beat people do death, they do cause emotional anguish. They insult the departed while grieving survivors stand nearby when they picket funerals. They impugn the honorable service rendered by military personnel when they hold picket signs that read “Thank God for IEDs.” With the medical profession having an entire catalog of psychological disorders called the DSM IV it should be obvious that mental harm is just as genuinely damaging as any other kind. Their protests should be considered as potentially emotionally injurious just as the unfounded cry of “Fire!” is considered potentially physically injurious.
When the WBC protests the production of school plays they are attempting to use their right to free speech as a weapon to curtail the free speech of others. In effect they are claiming their right to free speech overrides the rights of anyone outside the WBC. That’s an unsound premise and should not be permitted.
Since the WBC derives its motivation from Christian Scripture, the easiest way to remove their harmful influence would be to enact a Freedom From Religion law. Such a law would permit the faithful, including the WBC, to hold whatever beliefs they choose, but would deny them the privilege of forcing it on unwilling people. The freedom to express yourself should not include the right to force your views upon others.
Also written by Andrew
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Liz Goodwin, Westboro announces protest of Steve Jobs’ funeral – with an iPhone, news.yahoo.com
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