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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Freedom and Justice for All???

Recently the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, allowing continued picketing of service members' funerals citing protection under the First Amendment for the fundamentalist church members' actions, no matter how hurtful or distasteful.

Being the wife of a soldier and staunch defender of the Constitution, I'm torn on this decision.

On the one hand, I have always felt that the old quote "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it" (attributed incorrectly to Voltaire but actually written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall writing under a pseudonym) perfectly summarized my thoughts and feelings on the First Amendment.  I may vehemently disagree with your beliefs, but your right to express all your deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings is a freedom awarded citizens of the United States we should all hold dear.  We are very lucky to live in a nation where we are allowed to express all our opinions without fear of punishment.

On the other hand, I'm appalled at this group's conscious decision to target funerals to express their beliefs.  Saying their protests of fallen service members' funerals (or any funeral) is in poor taste is a serious understatement.  Attacking a family already suffering inconceivable pain to further their agenda is bordering on evil.  What kind of person can knowingly bring on further grief and sorrow to a family already in the depths of loss?

Clearly, the "church" founder, Fred Phelps, has some serious mental instability.  His charisma has allowed him to coerce his followers, mostly extended family members, to believe in his homophobic, anti-Semitic teachings.  He and his followers believe the soldiers' deaths are a result of a vengeful God smiting a nation that has endorsed homosexuality and supported Jews.  They also believe that plane crashes and other disasters are God's way of punishing a nation whose values have been compromised.

There is a time and place for everything, and a funeral is no place for preaching one's agenda.  A funeral is a deeply personal time for the family and friends of the dead, a time to say goodbye and to process the loss.  A funeral can award those close to the dead a sense of closure.  It also has an important place in many religions, and properly committing the dead to the afterlife is very important.  The mere presence of the protesters disrupts all the above.

Perhaps the protest of funerals was the only way this group could attain National media coverage, and they feel that it was a necessary means to an end.  Regardless, I don't know how they sleep at night.  Having been taught to treat others how I wished to be treated, and learning a deep sense of empathy, I can't fathom their behavior.

While I stand by the Supreme Court ruling to endorse this and any group's First Amendment rights as stated in the Bill of Rights as follows: "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,"  I believe that people should exercise a little common sense and courtesy in their expression of beliefs and ideas.  While I know this is asking a lot of the entire population, and I know this group obviously lacks common sense and courtesy, I remain an optimist.  Maybe this group will go the way of Jonestown followers and knock themselves off the radar.  Too optimistic?

I find this group vile and despicable.  Hate has always been something I considered an unnecessary drama people choose to submit to, and yet I find feelings of hate creeping into my heart regarding this group of individuals.  Hate just breeds more hate, like an unmitigated tumor.  I'm going to do my best to let go of my hate for them in the hopes that their hate will subside and desist, or at least their fervor will diminish and these horrible protests will stop.

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