Thursday, March 23, 2006
A Little Free Speech Fun
Fred Phelps faces no consequences for (metaphorically) pissing on the funeral services of soldiers killed in abroad. Those soldiers’ families and friends have to deal with his chanting and his posters because they don’t have a choice--although I’m certain that the urge to pop him a good one right in the nose has to be overwhelming.
“Thank God for Dead Soldiers”
I wonder whether protesting funerals is actually protected speech (although the Rocky would disagree with me on the subject)? Protected speech is a way of preserving the rights of the people to protest actions of the government and public figures, not a way of ensuring that a person can say whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever forum they want. Phelps wouldn’t be welcome (or protected) if he stepped into my home and began protesting: God Hates Daves. Phelps wouldn’t be protected if he were to storm into a church during a wedding--an occasion more similar to a funeral than might first seem evident--and protested the union.
So Phelps doesn’t have the right to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, in whatever forum he wants. The only question is where that line should be drawn, and I have no problem with the idea that it should be drawn far enough away that the grieving parents and spouses and children shouldn’t have to hear Phelps’ vitriol.
I’m prepared to admit that I’m just justifying my own bias, but it would still take an explanation of where that line between free speech and harassment should be drawn. Especially when a political activist can be sentenced to 45 days in jail for wearing shirts that were meant as a political protest during a court appearance.
Shareef Aleem says (and wears) things that I don’t agree with, but aren’t nearly as reprehensible as anything Fred Phelps has said. Both of them are engaging in some kind of political protest, though. I just find it interesting that violating the dignity and decorum of the court is punishable with a short stint in jail while violating the dignity and decorum of a funeral is a form of protected speech.
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