Lately the question of what are the limits of free speech have become a subject in the media. Mainly in regards to religious organizations going out of their way to create media buzz by provoking people during sensitive times. One of many who received an ample amount of media attention was Florida Pastor, Terry Jones, who’s small obscure church was little heard of until he decided to speak for the entire country and promote a “good ol’ fashioned” book burning bon-fire with the subject of the books being the Muslim Quaran.
While it is evident that Jones was directing his anger on his disdain to terrorist in the middle east. He didn’t seem to realize that his freedom of speech was also attacking the countless number of American born citizens who regard the Quaran as their personal religious holy book.
The next example would be Atlanta Pastor, Bishop Eddie Long. Who became infamous for his outspoken sermons against homosexuality and even took his freedoms a step further by enacting a march against same-sex marriage. In light of all that, Bishop Eddie Long has been recently accused of allegedly coercing the young men in his church congregation for sexual favors in return for financial support. While it is almost laughable, to see how one can be so easily exposed as a hypocrite, it is painful to even think about how much mental and emotional damage has been caused by only one person.
Presently, the media is focused on a funeral and yet another church who has decided to use the vulnerable to catapult their religious dogma down the throats of society. The Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas–a church predominately composed of family members, has taken the liberty to protest military action, homosexuals, and sin in general at the funeral of a young fallen Marine. With no respect for the family, or regard for human life in general, this group of religious zealots decided that sensational news was the best route to preach their gospel. Because everyone knows, God is all about getting his people to express his hate for the “other” people by any means necessary. It’s probably in the Bible somewhere.
So where does this end? What is to be done when people take their freedom and decide to speak up for a community, a religion, or even a whole country when those very words may cause more damage than benefit to the whole? The Supreme Court can do very little in regards to such people because they are practicing their right of free speech. And in truth, it seems those who are the most ignorant talk the loudest. All of these examples are no different than the bullies in the school yard using their influence to spew their negativity and hurt people when they are down. Yet, these bullies have grown up, found some more like themselves and decided to continue that negativity. Like Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide from being bullied by a close associate publicaly online for being secretly homosexual, the victims of those being spoken against are sometimes given little regard until it’s too late. Frankly, these are more than bullies, these are verbal terrorists using their freedom to terrorize others in order to gain power or noteriaty.
What then is the answer? Is it the government? Is it more law? No. It is the responsibility of each and every person to use that same freedom that these tyrants use to protect the cancers that they call speech. People need to use their own power to speak up to counteract against those who would use our precious freedom to hurt others. It would be hypocritically to say that these people can not speak their mind about how they feel but in the same regard, they should know that when they speak up, others will speak up too. To much is given, much is required. If one has the power to speak up against something and chooses not to do so, then that person silently agrees. The responsibility is in the hands and words of the people to not half-hazardly cry to government to do something but to be verbal vigilantes and speak out against the injustice on the threat of human rights of anyone. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A injustice anywhere is a threat against justice everywhere.” When the public hears about these religious pious speaking up for the majority and bullying those who can not defend themselves, it is up to the public to defend those being attacked despite if the public is directly affected or not.
It is one thing to be passionate about God, religion, or even the country. But when that passion is used to burn people at the stake who have done nothing wrong then something must be done. In this free society we cannot control the actions of others, but we can control the actions of ourselves.The actions of one person can affect a million. But the question is, will that action be constructive or destructive?