Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Is Free Speech?

Hypothetical: You have an 18 year old Catholic son. He volunteers, and gets shipped out to Afghanistan. There, he befriends local Muslims, and one night, while reading a storybook to a group of laughing Muslim children through a translator, a suicide bomber jumps into the room where this is going on. As the suicide bomber tries to let go of his spring-loaded dead man switch, your son grips the switch and wrestles the bomber out the door into a pit outside, where the bomb goes off, killing your son.

Muslims, fellow soldiers, nation and family all mourn the tragic loss of your son.

You greet the C-5A bearing your son's body at Dover AFB, and then make funeral arrangements.

The next day, Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas has protestors outside the New Jersey Catholic Church where the funeral is about to take place. Their signs say, "Does a soul belonging to a faggot-protecting religion go to Heaven?" "He fought and died for an Army which protects faggots. He's Hell-bound." "He died giving aid and comfort to members of the same religion which burned our families alive in the Twin Towers."

When you see the signs as you walk into Church, you collapse to the ground in tears.

Are the protestors engaging in Constitutionally-protected free speech?


  1. I'm no legal expert. But here's my take.
    Yep, free speach. Let 'em say it.
    I don't like it, myself.


    I think there is MORE going on that just free speach here.
    I think there can be limits placed on where and when they express their opinions.
    Their display is VERY targetted.
    I would almost call this 'assault'.
    They are disrupting a private service. They are expressing their opinions in quite a harsh way, thrusting it into the faces of the family and friends, spoiling the moment where the family just wants to lay their relative to rest.

    I think that side of it should be addressed.

    Perhaps if the family decided to participate in a more public event aside from the funeral, then, let the clash of the Topekans begin.

    But not at a funeral.
    Yep the funeral is on private grounds, but, we are forced to carry on with these private matters on public plots, as we are not allowed to bury our dead on our own private properties (generally speaking, I'm sure there are exceptions).

    Let them exercise their 1st ammendment rights. But not then and there. Also, given that these exercises are precisely targeted at individuals, perhaps one should review whether the person targeted (Though dead) was slandered.
    Defamation of character . . .

    Yes, I know this is actually going on. Not so hypothetically.

  2. sorry, meant to say, yep the funeral is on public grounds

  3. My hypo was based on a group of real cases. One is pending before the Supreme Court.

    My analysis is this: Free speech is important, but it is not the goal, per se. Free speech is intended to serve the quality of life.

    If free speech fills our rituals for laying our loved ones in the ground with HATE, it is detracting from the quality of life.

  4. Below is a quote from AP story (Mark Sherman)
    Snyder won an $11 million verdict against the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims. A judge reduced the award to $5 million before the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., threw out the verdict altogether, citing the church's First Amendment rights.

    For Snyder, the case is not about free speech but harassment. "I had one chance to bury my son and it was taken from me," Snyder said.
    Same thing as what I was saying, the funeral go-ers were basically assaulted. Problem isn't free speech, they could have done their protests anywhere. but at a funeral, an event that is pseudo-private (gotta be held in public place though, as you can't bury your kin in your back yard)?

    basically, as the Father said, they had one shot to do this with dignity, and it was ruined.
    Give the family the 5 mil (or even 11) and tell the church it can go on protesting, just don't go trying to ruin peoples lives, doing this.