Evil masquerading as the church

 By Cal Thomas               nbprotest030 by R Visions Photography                                  

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The Supreme Court has decided to take a case that may change the boundaries for types of speech protected by the First Amendment.
The case was brought by a Maryland man whose son’s 2006 In loving memory of calling Bullshit! by Certifiedfuneral was picketed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Members of the “church” consist of “pastor” Fred W. Phelps Sr., and his family who preach a false doctrine that basically claims American soldiers are dying in combat because of this country’s increasingly tolerant attitude toward homosexuals. “Semper Fi F—” and “Thank G0d for dead soldiers” are two of the more outrageous signs displayed by members of the Westboro church at services for some of our war dead.
I put “pastor” and “church” in quotations on purpose. Others — one thinks especially of “pastors” who preached segregation and barred blacks from their “churches” at one time — have caused ridicule to be directed at believers in G0d, but the Phelps case may descend to an even lower level of evil.
The history of the case is this: a jury in Baltimore awarded Albert Snyder more than $10 million in damages. The amount was reduced on appeal and the case was eventually thrown out by the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond. That panel of three judges said the picket signs could not be reasonably understood to be referring directly to Snyder and his late son, Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder. The court said as distasteful as Phelps’ rhetoric is, the expressions are part of a national debate on homosexuality and so it is protected speech.
I called Nat Hentoff, who is regarded by many as an authority on the First Amendment and a fierce defender of all sorts of outrageous speech. Hentoff believes speech that might be construed as leading a person to act “is a clear disturbance of the peace at a religious or any kind of event” and thus “is not protected by the First Amendment.”

Hentoff is right. The venue for military funerals is not a college campus or a political rally. Very often it is a church or synagogue. Even if it is a secular venue, the sexual behavior or orientations of dead soldiers and their families are unknown to the Phelpses, who are using a family’s grief to advance a judgmental attitude that is rejected in the Scripture in which they claim to believe. Someone should remind them that the Devil could quote Scripture, too.
Several years ago, members of the Phelps family picketed a prayer breakfast in Topeka at which I was the main speaker. Sitting next to me was then-Kansas governor (now Health and Human Services secretary) Kathleen Sebelius. I was vaguely familiar with the Phelpses but had never seen them up close and I asked the governor about them. I recall her saying, “Oh, don’t worry about them. They picket everybody.” At first I found them faintly amusing, but upon reflection I consider them deeply offensive, un-American and anti-Christian. (cont.)

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4 Responses

  1. Them’s fightin’ words! I predict the SCOTUS will come down with a nearly unanimous decision reversing the lower court based on the ‘fighting words’ doctrine.

    These are words that are more than a mere abstract idea; they are meant to convey quite clearly to the audience which includes funeral-goers that this soldier died because he and his nation tolerate homosexuals. Those are words that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.

  2. Jonathan,

    I was kinda leaning the other way. As reprehensible as Phelps and his flock are, I tend to lean toward ‘more speech’ to combat hate speech. I’m sure I’d feel different if it were my son or daughter.

    You make a persuasive case. Now I’m starting to lean your way. While I think there are legit restrictions on free speech, this is a tricky one.
    godspeed SCOTUS.

  3. I suspect that SCOTUS will come down on the side of the new “hate crimes” law, further eroding the First Amendment. Common sense would never have allowed such a case before a court. But common sense is in short supply these days.

  4. In my post about this, this is what I added:

    ‘And that might be one reason why Church Foreclosures are Soaring Heavenward.’

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