Thursday, March 3, 2011

Free Speech Decision

Recently the U.S. Supreme Court determined that demonstrations at soldiers’ funerals are protected fee speech under the Constitution. While the Court (and most of us) find such demonstrations to be obnoxious, revolting, and cruel, they are protected (just as flag-burning is protected).

Some people are upset with this ruling because none of us likes to see the funeral of a fallen soldier disrupted by these hate-mongers from a church in Kansas. However, I believe the Supreme Court decision was the right one for a number of reasons.

First, the free speech and freedom of the press provisions are in the Constitution to protect protests against and criticism of the government and its policies. Americans are free to protest (within limits – no violence, for example) and to criticize without fear of arrest or retribution. Our Founding Fathers did everything they could to prevent abuses of power by the federal government, and to protect the rights of citizens.

Second, if the Court had voted the other way, we would have begun to slide down the slippery slope of censorship and government control of what we can say and not say. This would have been a dangerous precedent. While I find that church’s behavior reprehensible, it is and should be legal. Municipalities can limit the damage done by such demonstrators by passing laws that say no demonstration can take place within 1,000 feet of a soldier’s funeral. Such laws have been passed, and there is a precedent for such regulations. Similar limits have been put on demonstrators at abortion clinics.

Third, since these demonstrations are done by members of a church, it is especially important that their free speech be protected. If the decision had gone the other way, then there is the potential for censorship of sermons, Bible studies, and other religious activity. In particular, I’m referring to speech that isn’t politically correct and may be construed as “hate speech” by some. For example, if a pastor gives a sermon saying the practice of homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible, that speech is still protected by this Court decision.

By the way, that church is totally misguided. Their issue is the “acceptance” of homosexuality by our society. They feel, as I understand it, that God is punishing the United States for this every time a soldier is killed. So they show up at soldiers’ funerals with their hateful signs proclaiming God’s condemnation and rejoicing over another dead soldier. It is completely unchristian to cause additional grief for families as they mourn their loss, and to rejoice that another soldier has been killed. I believe these people are deranged, but nevertheless, their rights must still be protected. Let’s pray that they will finally come to their senses and realize that they have not been following the way of Jesus, who preached (and practiced) love, mercy, and forgiveness. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t preach about what the Bible says concerning various behaviors, but we must do so without hate and condemnation. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

No comments: