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There’s a Time and a Place…and This Wasn’t It

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When I came across this article surrounding the anti-gay protests held by a Kansas church, APPALLED is an under statement describing my reaction. I understand that freedom of speech is our constitutional right, and that gay supporters and protestors are nothing out of the ordinary. However, this case gives new meaning to the idea of a proper ‘time and place’ for these things. With signs such as, “God blew up the troops” “AIDS cures fags,” and “Thank God for dead soldiers,” don’t you agree that the outskirts of a military funeral procession is a starkly inappropriate location for this sort of picketing?

The Westboro Baptist Church led by Pastor Fred Phelps thinks quite differently. In fact, this man goes as far as saying that God is punishing the United States for the ‘sin of homosexuality’ through events including soldiers’ deaths. They believe that US soldiers deserve to die because they fight for a country that tolerates homosexuality…Really?! With such potent, derogatory statements one would assume that people would rise against the protest at some point, and that is exactly what a man named Albert Snyder did.

In 2006, Westboro church members showed up outside the funeral for Snyder’s son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder in Westminster, Maryland. Again displaying their outrageous signs, Albert Snyder decided that these acts were not only, incredibly offensive, an invasion of privacy but also an infliction of emotional distress. To make matters worse, Snyder’s son is NOT a homosexual, so why did they even show up? It was then that Snyder determined enough was enough and sued the church in 2007. A jury awarded the family $2.9 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

It seemed that in this situation, while you can never take back what happened, at least the outrageous actions of the church received the legal repercussions it deserved. However in 2008, the case was appealed in federal court and the decision was reversed on the grounds that it was a direct violation of the church’s first amendment rights. Westboro members held to the idea that “you can’t use the subject that your feelings are hurt to trump public debate.”

Whether you support or acknowledge any form of homosexual relationship is irrelevant when discussing this issue. I understand that in America one can speak freely, but do you believe there should be restraints on when and where? I DO!…Its not as though I am suggesting the Westboro church can not protest homosexuality, but I am suggesting that they should not be allowed to do it outside of a military funeral procession, let alone any funeral precession. It’s simply out of respect, say what you want, but in an appropriate setting.

What do you think? Should the Westboro church be allowed to picket when and where they want, or should these sorts of protests be regulated out of respect for the deceased?

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