Thursday, August 11, 2011

Limits on Funeral Demonstrations

The Dutchess County legislature is considering a law that would limit protest demonstrations at funerals and burials. There was a Supreme Court decision that allowed such demonstrations, citing freedom of speech. The driving force behind the Supreme Court case and the Dutchess County proposed legislation is the repulsive demonstrations staged by a small church in Kansas called Westboro Baptist Church. Its congregation consists mostly of family members, and they are what I call the religious lunatic fringe. In the Supreme Court case, the Snyder family of York, Pennsylvania, lost a son in a military action overseas and Westboro showed up in York to demonstrate in a totally inappropriate way (as they have done at other military funerals in the past).

Their demonstrations, which are hurtful and disgusting, are to protest the gains made by gays as a result of gay rights activism. In their warped thinking, the Westboro people believe every military death is God’s punishment of the United States for permitting homosexuality to be openly practiced and accepted.

The Supreme Court made the right decision, painful as it was, that Westboro had a constitutional right to demonstrate. However, municipalities have the right to control where demonstration are held and place certain limitations on them for public order and safety. Therefore, Dutchess County can (and hopefully will) pass such limiting legislation.

While many Christians believe the practice of homosexuality is a sin based on both the Old and New Testaments, that doesn’t justify such inappropriate and cruel demonstrations at a time when a family is mourning the tragic death of a loved one, especially a soldier or marine fighting for his country.

These Westboro people give Christians a bad name, and quite frankly I don’t think they can be considered “Christians” as you and I understand the term. Jesus practiced love, not hate. When a woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus in John 8:3-11, he said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8:4, NRSV) Jesus didn’t deny that she had broken the moral law as found in the Hebrew Bible, but neither did he condemn her. We as Christians should follow the example of Jesus in loving all people, even when we believe what they are doing is inconsistent with biblical teachings. That’s between them and God, and we should be praying for them (and ourselves), because “…there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:22b-23, NRSV)

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