"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

11.01.2007

justice is served?

A jury finds in favor of a deceased soldier's father who sued Westboro Baptist Church and three of its leaders over their protests at the families of fallen soldiers. The jury awarded the soldier's father $11 million, far more than the net worth of the church and those members included in the lawsuit.

There's no question that the actions of Westboro Baptist Church are reprehensible. Their message is contrary to the gospel of Christ.

But I am concerned about the limits on free speech for which this case could serve as precedent. Maintaining our civil liberties is always a delicate balance. Here's hoping that this case will serve its intended purpose of stopping Westboro. And no more.

8 Comments:

Blogger CharlieMac said...

TIA,
Was the trial about free speech or common decency and respect for the dead?
Mac McFatter
Semmes, AL

Thursday, November 01, 2007 6:50:00 PM

 
Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I had the same concerns in the '90s when the racketeering laws were used to restrict anti-abortion protesters. Free speech means defending speech one does not like. WBC folks are usually very careful to remain on public property during their nasty, hate filled protests.

Thursday, November 01, 2007 9:40:00 PM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thursday, November 01, 2007 10:08:00 PM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

Mac, I think the intention of the plantiff was definitely about respect for the dead, and I am in absolute agreement that what the WBC folks do is unconscionable. But sometimes doing something for the right reason can have unintended consequences.

As Michael points out, protecting free speech for everyone means that sometimes we have to protect speech we don't like. I would just hate to see this case used as a reason to limit free speech in other cases that have nothing to do with protests at soldiers' funerals.

Thursday, November 01, 2007 10:08:00 PM

 
Blogger David McCullars said...

e.g. If a comedian makes a callous joke out of some recent tragedy and a victim gets offended ...slippery slope.

It would seem to me that by awarding such a ridiculously large amount, the federal jury is just making a statement and essentially conceding to the US Court of Appeals.

But I just "loved" Phelps's comment: "[This] will elevate me to something important"

Friday, November 02, 2007 2:07:00 AM

 
Blogger euphrony said...

Oh, yeah, Phelps statement is rife with self-importance. I just about puked when I read that line.

I don't think the verdict will stand, nor should it under the American system. But I wouldn't mind seeing these guys drop off the map.

Friday, November 02, 2007 10:14:00 AM

 
Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Our tactics should be to counter them while protecting their free speech rights. When the KKK wants to hold a rally, I join with the ACLU in protecting their right to march--and then help organize a counter-rally that is much larger to show them that their horrible message and presence is not welcome. (This has happened several times since I came to Louisville in '86. Each time, the KKK rally is smaller.)

What if GLBT allies (or just decent people who don't believe in interrupting funerals) simply came with enough people to completely block WBC folks from even being able to SEE the funeral? What if GLBT allies and others kept showing up at WBC and interrupting their worship services, etc.?

Friday, November 02, 2007 11:45:00 AM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

Michael, well, it's not exactly what you propose, but there's a group of bikers who go to every soldier's funeral that WBC protests. They form a human shield between the families and the WBC-ers, and rev their motorcycle engines to drown out their noise.

Friday, November 02, 2007 2:12:00 PM

 

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