You may remember March of last year that our Community College hosted the play “The Laramie Project“, the controversial play about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. The Westboro Baptist Church (I use the term “church” in loosest possible way) was scheduled to come out and protest the play (as they have done at other locations). The Westboro group has become notorious for picketing funerals of American soldiers killed in action. Their message is that the death of the Soldiers is
God’s judgement on our nation as a result of our societies immorality. They say our nations has embraced and celebrates: same-sex marriage, adultery, premarital sex and other “sins”, thus we are under God’s judgement. The week before the event we had a great discussion about the issues and how things were being handled by all the players involved and what we thought the best Biblical reaction to all the concerns was.
The Westboro Church showed up at the funeral of Matthew Snyder his father Albert sued the Church for the emotional pain they caused by showing up at his son Matthew’s funeral. Initially he won $11 million dollars in court (a judge later reduced it to $5 million). Upon appeal the award was thrown out, and the Church was shielded from any damages. It eventually went to the Supreme Court.
The courts decision came out today. It was argued as a case of “free speech”. How would you have voted? Did the founders, when they wrote the First Amendment to the Constitution have in mind protecting the kind of the speech the Westboro Church spew forth? (Try to image having a funeral for your own child and having them show up and say that your child deserved to be dead).
I was not surprise by the decision of the Court today. What did surprise me was the way the vote fell. In order not to spoil the out-come (and let you see how your own vote lined up with Courts, I’ll post my reaction in the “Comments” to this blog).
I think its a good opportunity to revisit our discussion from last year. How do we make our voices about moral concerns heard in the world we live in? It often seems the only way to get any attention is yell really loud and resort to offensive or shocking displays of outrage before we get any notice.
What do you think?
1.) Is picketing or doing civil acts of disobence a worth while way of protesting? If so, what causes are worthy of public protest?
2.) Are the Westboro Churches charges valid? Why or why not?
3.) Have you ever picket or protested anything? If so what? If not what would it take for you to do it?
http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-751.pdf (Justice Alito’s dissenting opinion starts on page 23 of the PDF)