Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Banning speech at the funeral of the Arizona victums

Tragedy visited Arizona over the weekend. A representative of congress was seriously wounded and 6 others were killed. The gunman’s motives are unclear right now and may never really be known.
The debate after all of this is about the freedom of speech. The representative that was wounded was the focus of harsh comments by many that didn’t agree with her politically. The question that is being tossed around the media is what responsibility do those that preach political hate have? The answer for many is none. Political pundits and talk show hosts, many say, are just exercising their freedom of speech and should in no way be connected with what this young man did in Arizona. Even though his actions killed people, the freedom of speech should be protected at all costs.

Well, unless of course, politics get in the way.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas will be in town for the funeral of Christina Taylor Green, a 9 year old girl that was one of the people that were killed. The church group is most famous for showing up at the funerals of veterans suggesting that the reason they died was because the United States accepts the gay lifestyle, as well as other issues. This time, they will arrive because “God sent the shooter to deal with idolatrous America.”

The Westboro Baptist Church is the focus of a Supreme Court case about the freedom of speech. Last fall, they argued that they have the right to express their opinion and should not have to pay damages to the father of a veteran that they picketed. That case is expected to be released sometime this Spring.

Lawmakers in Arizona have now crafted a law that will not allow the members of the Westboro Baptist Church from picketing the funeral of the little girl. The lawmakers suspended most of the rules to make this happen before the funeral. Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, signed the bill.

Even if every last person in Arizona agrees with the law banning the picketers, that doesn’t make it right. You can’t on one side of the argument defend the freedom of speech, then, make laws that limit the freedom of speech for no other reason than because it is uncomfortable.

The Westboro Church group may make us cringe to think that anyone would want to turn a funeral into a political statement and not respect the deep sorrow of the families of the 9 year old girl. The Westboro Church, though, at the very least broaden the limits of our freedoms. The lawmakers that are worked so hard at banning the Westboro group are limiting our freedoms in ways that may come to haunt us in the future.

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