Free Speech gone too far?

Serena - posted on 10/06/2010 ( 34 moms have responded )

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FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The Supreme Court is deciding a case involving the disgusting behavior of protesting at funerals.

The case focuses on a Baptist Church from Kansas whose anti-gay protests have targeted the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The church claims the soldiers' deaths are God's revenge for the United States tolerating homosexuality. Members of this church have traveled around the country, showing up at funerals and shouting at grieving family members.

They also display signs with messages like, "Thank God for dead soldiers," "God blew up the troops" and "AIDS cures fags."

The Snyder family sued the church in 2007 after protests at their son's funeral. Their suit claims invasion of privacy and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. A jury awarded them more than $10 million, but that amount was cut in half by a judge and then overturned by an appeals court.

The judges said although the church's message was offensive, the speech was protected.

The soldier's father, Albert Snyder, said his son was not gay and the protesters shouldn't have been at his funeral, calling their actions "inhuman."

The attorneys general of 48 states and the District of Columbia, along with a bipartisan group of 40 senators, support the Snyders. So does common sense.

The church insists it has the right to protest at funerals. It is backed by First Amendment and media groups, which denounce the church's message but defend its free speech rights.

The Supreme Court's decision in this case isn't expected for months.

http://caffertyfile.blogs.cnn.com/2010/1...

I was completely outraged. Where do we draw the line between free speech and hate mongering?

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Charlie - posted on 10/11/2010

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We do not have freedom of speech in the ture sense of the phrase in Australia for this very reason .

Australians are free, within the bounds of the law, to say or write what we think privately or publicly, about the government, or about any topic. We do not censor the media and may criticise the government without fear of arrest. Free speech comes from facts, not rumours, and the intention must be constructive, not to do harm. There are laws to protect a person's good name and integrity against false information. There are laws against saying or writing things to incite hatred against others because of their culture, ethnicity or background. Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.

Ez - posted on 10/06/2010

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If these clowns showed up to a funeral I was attending, I'd be the one in court /:)

Honestly, this is just revolting. People are going to believe what they wish, but for Christ's sake keep it to yourself. Nobody wants or needs to hear such vitriol and bigotry.

Jessica - posted on 10/09/2010

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Whilst I understand what the ladies here are saying (and I do agree that what they do isn't morally right), I have to point out that free speech does not only apply when nice things are being said. Free speech is free to ALL views. There is no free speech (and no point to free speech) if these (ignorant bastards) people are not allowed to express their views and opinions.

Now, I believe that there is a way to try and prevent such incidents without impacting their freedom of speech. Krista hit on a point "and you shouldn't be able to protest within 250 yards of a funeral" but that would impact on their right to protest in any public space. I suggest giving funeral homes and services temporary 'ownership' of surrounding land for army funerals. I'm not legally minded and don't know how this would be implemented but they have NO rights to protest on private property without the express consent of the owner. I also suggest no media coverage and no acknowledgement of them by the public. Cut off their audience and you cut off their fuel supply.

Stifler's - posted on 10/11/2010

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Obviously these people are using God for their own agenda. They aren't Christians, God doesn't hate. They should all be shot.

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34 Comments

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ME - posted on 10/13/2010

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I don't like what they are doing or saying at all...it makes me sick, actually. I've bumped into these people before at the Dem. National Convention in Denver a couple years ago. They are HORRIBLE people, and they do try to incite violence and confrontation with anyone they can...they call everyone they see "fags" and they have lots of interesting things to say about women as well...I saw them deliberately trying to incite a fight between an obviously gay man and his partner or friend and themselves...the cops had to step in several times during the convention, and it always involved them! But we have freedom of speech here...and unfortunately they have the right to say terribly vile things...I don't want my freedom of speech limited just so we can limit theirs...

Serena - posted on 10/12/2010

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I do remember the first time he was on Rick Sanchez and on "the list you didn't want to be on" he thanked Rick for bringing him more publicity. He was able to get his message out to a larger audience and welcomed people to challenge his first ammendment rights. He just makes my blood boil...

LaCi - posted on 10/12/2010

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In my opinion, as much as I hate them (and I'm pretty sure the entire country hates them), they have the right to say whatever they want.



That being said, I am amazed that they are all alive and healthy, given the amount of people who would probably like to kill them. I think most of us realize that reacting to them just makes them enjoy all this more, and prosecuting them (or killing them, maiming them, etc) makes them martyrs.



I'm not sure how they do things elsewhere, but they're around here frequently. They don't actually attend the funeral, they're usually just hanging out on the side of the road somewhere nearby with their signs and creepy smiles.



I very much enjoy the bikers that block them from view though. Those guys are super cool.

Heather - posted on 10/11/2010

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I know you can't incite violence or create a situation where someone could be harmed(hence the law you can't pull a fire alarm w/o cause, tell someone they should kill someone else), but I don't think they ban saying something hateful here. People who protested the Vietnam war and called soldiers baby killers and spit on them weren't arrested, so it would be hard to justify arresting these guys. It's not illegal to say you hate something or that God hates something...it's just wrong and stupid.

JuLeah - posted on 10/11/2010

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We can't outlaw stupid, or hate, or even fear. I think we need to hold people accountable. There was a program in the state I used to live in, to help prevent hate crimes. So, the shaved headed neo natzi dudes would be picked up for a hate crime and screaming their fool head off about how God hates Jews and God wanted them to tag the temple ... yah, it says that in the bible.
Anyway, one at a time (remove mob energy) they sat in a room with one who had been in the camps (these folks started the program) and the shaved headed dues listened as the older folks talked about their childhood, watching their familes die, not knowing about many family members, the nightmares the still have .... they listened until they heard, and as tough as the young (men usually) tried to be, they all heard in the end and teared up.
They were made to admit what they did, their lack of caring, their lack of concern about the pain they caused .... and they were then asked to pass the message on to another. They were never asked to say they were sorry, but most did. They were never asked to walk away from what they had been taught in hate, but most did.
I was amazed by the courage of the older folks who ran this program - to tell their sotry again, in the face of such anger and hate, but all said, the world will change "one person at a time"

[deleted account]

Jessica, OMFG! I just watched that Tyra clip. How disgusting and sad. Those girls have been completely brainwashed.

Amanda - posted on 10/11/2010

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Thought everyone might find this interesting : This is from the below mentioned link.....

"The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist organizations, has classified Phelps' church as a hate group. It calls Phelps America's most notorious anti-gay activist."

http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/05/hate.pr...

Pretty interesting article. He once fought for civil rights with the same passion as his Anti-Gay stance that he uses now.

Amanda - posted on 10/11/2010

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This "church" actually protests at more than just funerals. They protest at graduations and other public events too. My husband graduated from KU, and they were there to picket. All their signs are the same ones they use at the Funerals of Our Fallen Soldiers. It's absolutely repulsive that they do this at funerals and other events. I think what is also really sad, is that there are children who are being so brainwashed by this "church" and its leader Fred Phelps.

I think think it's a load of crap that they are allowed to do this at all. I get the whole freedom of speech thing, but what they are doing is a form of harassment and what they do is full of hate.

Stifler's - posted on 10/10/2010

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If free speech means hate speech is allowed then I'm not for it sorry.

Lucy - posted on 10/10/2010

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As much as it pains me to say it, I have to agree with Jessica that if you uphold the ideals of free speech, it applies to everyone, no matter how poisonous and disgusting their views or words may be.

These people are clearly foul, totally lacking in education and compassion, and you can bet that if I came across any of them I would be exercising my right to free speech! But if we changed the law to prevent them from carrying out their offensive protests in public areas, they could also seek to use that law to prevent pride marches or civil partnership ceremonies in public locations, too.

My husband had to leave for work 2 hours early yesterday and endure walking past the 1000 fascists who had gathered to make appalling speeches and protest the multi-cultural nature of the city of Leicester right outside the theatre where he works. Not the most fun work day he's ever had. But the 1000+ ANTI- fascists who gathered in dignified solidarity to oppose them showed, as publicly as possible, that these people do not speak for the majority and will not be allowed to dominate our country. in my opinion, this is much better than banning the fascist protest and allowing them to play the "hard done by" card, gaining public sympathy. They were allowed the chance to fully display what disgusting specimens of humanity they really are, and rose to the occasion for all to see.

Jessica - posted on 10/10/2010

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I also want to add, the start of the feminist movement and the civil rights movement was incredibly offensive to a lot of people. Now, they are not the same, but if everything that was offensive to a large amount of people was banned or outlawed then these movements wouldn't have come about.

Jessica - posted on 10/10/2010

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@ Tracey,

“Yes to freedom of speech but I don't think these people are motivated by freedom of speech”

Of course they are not motivated by free speech, they are motivated by bigotry and an irrational fear of going to hell if they don't protest. Watch Louis Therouxs' documentary on the WBBC. I can't find a decent clip but I did find something else that is interesting.



“Do you not have laws covering religious or incitement to cause civil unrest which could be used to have these people arrested? “

The problem is that they are careful about how they do things. Although what we see is incitement to hatred or civil unrest and so on, it is actually just their opinion. They never actually say anything involving actions. They say 'God hates fags'. That is not incitement. If they said 'God wants you to kill fags', then that WOULD be incitement. If someone wanted to stand on the pavement and shout obscenities at me outside my work then they are more then entitled to, providing they don't follow or touch my person or those of anyone with me and are not encouraging others to physically harm me.

@Ashie,

“You can have free speech and do it with some respect and decency.. “

Yes, you can. But you don't *have* to. No-one is under any legal obligation to be nice and not offend other parties.

“The judge needs to wake the hell up and see its not acceptable.”

The horrible situation and the grieving family members being further upset because of their poor taste is unacceptable, but their rights to protest anything, anywhere? Is that unacceptable? If so, would you then suggest that pro-lifers should be banned from protesting outside the abortion clinics (as they are perfectly within their rights to do so?) Would you take away the rights to protest against war outside parliaments and military barracks (because you are sure to offend someone, somewhere)?

@ Emma,

“No one should have the right to protest at funerals. These men died for their country, they even died so the Baptists could be free. Ungrateful and ignorant IMO “

Yes they are ungrateful and ignorant. But those soldiers died for nothing if these people are not allowed to practice the very same things those soldiers believed in and died protecting.

@ Sharon,

“The cemetary is NOT open to the public per se.”

Your right, but they are not protesting in the cemetary. They are protesting on public ground outside the cemetary.

“They are exercising their freedoms too. Freedom of religion is one. Freedom of speech as the eulogy is read.

You exercising your rights may not infringe on mine.”

The thing is, they are not infringing on the mourners rights. Infringing on the mourners rights would be trying to actually stop the funeral from going ahead, or directly interfering with the funeral. Their mere presence, even their shouting, is not a direct interference.

“They are clearly wrong.”

Yes, morally they are wrong. However, free speech has to be universal else it is pointless and not really *free* speech. If you start drawing the lines then those lines will be shifted until you end up with a country and government like China.

You seem to be under the impression that I support these people. I have to make it clear that I do NOT. I do not support their views and actions, I do not respect their views and actions. I DO, however, support their rights to those views and actions providing no-one else is physically harmed.

“I do not agree with what you say, sir, but I shall defend to my death your right to say it.” ~ Voltaire.

Having them arrested or limiting what they can say and where they can say it will just make them worse. Then they would have a legitimate claim to being persecuted against. The best thing to do about them is nothing. Don't give them attention, even petition media groups not to give them attention. Like I said before, cut off their audience and you cut off their fuel supply.

And rest easy in the knowledge that there is probably a gay soldier out there who rejected Fred Phelps. :D

Sharon - posted on 10/09/2010

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The cemetary is NOT open to the public per se. You can't wander in there and have a fucking pic-nic. You PAID for that ground - it belongs to you or the deceased. You're standing on that ground.

If you can't walk through your livingroom waggling your wang without getting your ass busted for indecency there is NO FUCKING WAY you should be allowed to stand on a sidewalk, at cemetary and scream at people paying their respects to the dead. They are exercising their freedoms too. Freedom of religion is one. Freedom of speech as the eulogy is read.

You exercising your rights may not infringe on mine. The people in the cemetary are affecting NO ONE.

They are clearly wrong.

Stifler's - posted on 10/09/2010

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p.s Freedom of speech shouldn't extend to protesting homosexuality in the army or otherwise. It's just flogging a dead horse, there's proof that no one chooses to be gay so why should they be allowed to protest against the freedom of the citizens to have whatever relationship they like.

Stifler's - posted on 10/09/2010

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No one should have the right to protest at funerals. These men died for their country, they even died so the Baptists could be free. Ungrateful and ignorant IMO.

[deleted account]

You can have free speech and do it with some respect and decency..at a funeral is absolutely disrespectful and wrong.The judge needs to wake the hell up and see its not acceptable.I agree you do that at my loved ones funeral, you be going down 6foot yourself.There a sorry excuse for a human being not the solider who died defending his country.Whats worse is that the church and judge are defending those disgusting actions by those protesters..thats worse.

Tracey - posted on 10/09/2010

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Yes to freedom of speech but I don't think these people are motivated by freedom of speech - more by fame and celebrity caused by public outrage. Do you not have laws covering religious or incitement to cause civil unrest which could be used to have these people arrested?

Becky - posted on 10/07/2010

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Free speech or not, that is lower than low! Attacking the grieving family and friends of people who fought for their freedom to state their opinions?! That's just sick!
I knew there was a reason I didn't like Baptists! Lol, just kidding. But I agree, Tah, people like this give Christians a bad name. Honestly, they almost disgust me more than criminals, because they are twisting God's word so badly.

Ez - posted on 10/07/2010

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And really, wouldn't this fall into the 'hate speech' category? 'Aids cures Fags' ?

Sharon - posted on 10/07/2010

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Funerals are not a public spectacle. People who hate the deceased aren't invited enmasse. I'm with Erin, you show up at my dead hero's funeral and i'll pop a cap in your ass. Or maybe knee caps. It is NOT free speech to trap people in a semi captive situation and force them to listen to your bullshit.

If someone walked into a wedding and pulled that shit, they'd be arrested. I don't see a difference. A funeral costs 10's of thousands of dollars, you've paid for the hole in the ground, the services of the minister etc. Nuke the bastards.

Rosie - posted on 10/07/2010

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they simply boggle my mind. protesting at a soldiers funeral, who DIED fighting for YOUR freedoms. how lowclass, and disgusting can you be??? talk about irony. i can't wait for fred phelps to die, and his daughters to follow soon. i think there should be some law against it. kristas right, if you can't yell fire in a theater, or talk about bombs in an airport, or all the other hundreds of examples of limitations on free speech, they should definitley make a law against protesting at funerals.

Serena - posted on 10/07/2010

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I was thinking about it last night and wondering how the soldiers would have felt. I guess because they died for the same freedoms for opressed citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan.
But I believe that this is their families' day to remember them and honor them for they gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country and these hate mongerers are trying to take that away from them.
I bet though the Patriot Riders are just waiting for one of the protestors to start something...
The Supreme Court has some heavy thinking to do on this one...

Heather - posted on 10/06/2010

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These people are disgusting examples of human beings. I'm all for free speech, even if I don't agree with what's being said. I also think that if we tell these people they can't lawfully protest then we start down a slippery slope. The great news is that people are lawfully fighting back against these hate mongers. Check out the Patriot Riders, a motorcycle gang that goes to the funerals where Westboro Church is protesting and prevents them from getting close to the funeral and will even rev. their engines to prevent the protesters from being heard. Most of them are vets and they're all great Americans.

Jessica - posted on 10/06/2010

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I think it's no longer a free speech issue but about slander and harrassment and what about those families rights??? It's because people like this are aloud to get away with things under the guise of it being there "right" that the world is going to shit.

Krista - posted on 10/06/2010

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I'm all for free speech, but those people are disgusting. You can't shout "fire" in a crowded theatre, and you shouldn't be able to protest within 250 yards of a funeral. To me, that would be the perfect solution -- those asshats can still say whatever they want, but with parameters on the location.

Ez - posted on 10/06/2010

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They are the reason many people are against "organized religion".

Precisely

Tah - posted on 10/06/2010

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i'm with erin...don't test me. My husband is in the navy defending this country and things he may or may not believe in, if God forbid something happened to him, after i got off the mental ward, if anybody was at his funeral protesting it would be the biggest riot ever. After i rushed the protestors the whole family would start in. I am baptist and i despise what they are doing. They are the reason many people are against "organized religion". If i didnt know that they didnt represent what i stand for and beleive in i might be also. I think that they should not be allowed to come and harrass a grieving family and that they should be able to be sued for mental anguish....

Kimberly - posted on 10/06/2010

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Ughhhh! Saw them on the news tonight wearing the "GOD HATES FAGS!" t-shirts. They are going straight to hell! Disgusting!

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