Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Disgusting But Fair

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), which I've previously mentioned, has won its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case about free speech. WBC had been sued for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy by the family of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder because the church staged a protest at Cpl. Snyder's funeral in 2006. Snyder's family said that WBC had intentionally harassed them and caused emotional distress, and so should pay damages, but the Court disagreed. In an 8-to-1 decision, the Supreme Court said that WBC has a right to promote a "broad-based message" on public matters such as war, even when that message consists of slogans like "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God blew up the troops" displayed on signs at the funerals of service members who died in the line of duty.

This decision is sure to disappoint and even outrage a lot of people, but it was the right decision. I'm disgusted by WBC's leader, Fred Phelps, and the hateful messages that he and his congregation/family spread, but freedom of speech doesn't give me the right to not be offended by what someone else says. After all, I've said and written things that disappoint and even outrage people, and I plan to keep doing so. WBC's message is hateful crap, but to my simultaneous dismay and relief, they have the right to share it.


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