The unfortunate death of Lance Corporal Mathew Snyder has led the country to a challenge of the First Amendment. While I will be the first to support our troops and defend the Constitution, a question must be asked of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church. Do religious groups have the freedom and right to say anything they desire at any location?
The First Amendment protects the things that people say, but what happens when people allegedly hurt others by their sayings or demonstrations? The Westboro Baptist Church did not incite a riot. Of course, no physical harm has come to the Snyder family, but when the church supporters picketed Snyder’s funeral services, some think they went too far.
Ron Rosenberger, a former student of the University of Virginia, ended up taking a case to the Supreme Court over a magazine he wanted to publish in college. The college denied his petition for funding, sighting the college’s policy to not support religious or political activities. The magazine expressed religious views but, because of the “establishment clause” under the First Amendment, Rosenberger was vindicated.
Considering the First Amendment, anything a religion states should not be punishable under freedom of religion and speech protection. But some new laws are quietly creeping into law books. In California, a student was not awarded free speech protection after being suspended because the student wore a shirt to school that said homosexuality was “shameful.”
In Pennsylvania, a new law describes some forms of speech not worthy of protection under the First Amendment. The definition of “hate speech” is considered to be harassment by communication without any physical assault.
The religious world has always been known to be against homosexuality, calling it unnatural and a sin against God. But regardless of how anyone believes, for or against this issue, should any religion or individual be allowed to speak publicly against another way of life?
Do politicians promote harassing speech against opposing parties? Certainly they have. Have some activist groups used hate speech against the groups they lobby against? They absolutely have. Are any of these groups’ speech designed to hurt the other group? Yes. In one way or another, a negative impact is realized by one party or group. So should the Constitution be changed to keep people from expressing their views in other areas besides religion?
Permitting the case against the Westboro Baptist Church to receive a ruling that would strip the constitutional protection of religion and speech would be the ultimate crime paid by the American people. The Westboro Baptist Church may not have used the wisdom of the Holy Scriptures to win over their enemies, but they have the right to freedom of speech. Protecting their rights in this case is not a political manipulation of the law by Westboro Baptist Church, but an inalienable constitutional right to express their beliefs.
So should any religion or individual be allowed to speak publicly against another way of life? This is America, so the answer without any hesitation is yes.
Kampeas, R. (2010). Westboro case poses dilemma for Jewish groups. Jta.org
Templeton, J. (2006). Weekend Perspectives: Freedom of religious speech. Post-gazette.com
Walzer, P. (1995). Religious free speech. Cir-usa.org