Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is free speech really free?

This has been one of those years where I honestly wonder where the time has gone. Every week I would think of new things to blog about and then life would happen and the next week was upon me... I have recommitted to making this blog thing work. Hopefully it is not only useful to others but to me as well.

It has taken "big" things to get me motivated enough to write/blog about, and yesterday one of them happened. I turned up the volume as Fox News began to cover the scene outside the Supreme Court building where a distraught father of a deceased military son was in court against Westboro Baptist Church from Kansas. If you are unfamiliar with them, you have been living under a rock. They have protested us here at Focus. They have shown up a any number of times here in the Springs to protest at military funerals. They seem to show up all over the country ranting and raving about how God hates us, hates gays, hates our country and that we are all headed to hell.

Off the top may I say that I am immensely embarrassed that they call themselves Christians and that somehow lumps them in with me. They do not act or sound like the Christ I follow. I would like to remind them of the section of Mark where Jesus comes upon the woman caught in adultery who is about to be stoned. Quick aside question: Anyone else wondering where the guy is? Regardless she's about to be stoned because she did something wrong. Jesus steps in, comforts here, confronts the legalistic Pharisees and then writes something in the dirt that causes those same folks holding stones to scatter. My thought: he might have been writing the names of the women that each of them had been in adulterous relationships with... speculation I know and highly doubtful but it would make for great drama! He then turns to her and says the exact thing they wanted to; namely 'what you did was wrong - don't do it anymore'. Same conclusion but VERY different approach. I wish the Phelps family and the mindless people who follow them would pay a bit more attention to that than there picketing.

Now, all of that said this case in the Supreme Court will be decided on the basis of our First Amendment. Interestingly enough our Founders were bright enough to protect the Phelps and others like them by granting free speech rights. However free speech has never been (and was never intended to be) absolute and line that determines where it stops is where it begins to harm others. There are responsibilities that go with rights and Westboro has forgotten that. I believe the Court will decide in the church's favor - not because they are "right" but because it would mean a massive re-write of both free speech law but privacy law (the other issue at odds here).

Culture has been a wonderful arbiter of when that line is crossed. The single greatest way to get Westboro to stop doing what they are doing is to totally marginalize them. If the law helps do that then wonderful. News stations stop covering their protests even though it makes for compelling "art" for the evening news. Newspapers - stop printing anything from them. We had a ranting editorial from the Phelp's daughter in our local paper and I don't why they printed it - it is called editorial discretion. Even bloggers should stop using any bandwidth to even mention their names. I know I know, I have just violated that one but in an effort to start the momentum.

What is even more egregious in these cases is that they are protesting military funerals of those who are fighting and dying to preserve the very rights they are pushing the limits of. Free speech is theirs because of the long line of young men and women who have sacrificed to allow them to live free. I beg and plead with them to not only responsibly handle that right but to be a much more compelling vision of Christ to a culture that needs it.

Back in the saddle...