Brace yourselves, but I'm about to defend Reverend Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church.
So we have another First Amendment trial in the Supreme Court. I have no idea what the decision will be, but I certainly hope that Fred Phelps and his family will win. Why? Because they should. Taking this issue to the Supreme Court is treading on dangerous ground to begin with and here's why:
America was founded on principles of freedom. One of those principles, The First Amendment, which is first because it's the most important, is being contested by the family of the deceased LCPL Matthew Snyder. LCPL Snyder's funeral was protested by these Westboro yahoos and the family has been fighting to win a lawsuit against Phelps for awhile now. I certainly understand the pain that's been dealt to this family, but I can't support this lawsuit at all. I truly feel for the people that are hurt by Phelps' idiocy, but limiting his First Amendment rights is not the answer, nor should it be.
There is nothing in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that is as important or 'sacred' as the right to free speech and the Separation of Church and State. Free speech and freedom of religion are tied directly to free thought. We lose those rights the very minute the government decides to take any aspect of our speech, no matter how minute or insignificant as it may seem, away from us. With that loss would undoubtedly come the loss of our individuality and sense of self.
I hear a lot of people say things like, "I support free speech, but these guys are just taking it too far." If that's the case, you don't support free speech. Because who's to say what is or isn't "too far", obscene, or offensive? Having to put up with the pollutant bullshit from folks like Phelps, the KKK, the Tea Party, neo-Nazis, and other fringe groups, is a sacrifice that we have to make to preserve our own right to say what we want. I don't agree with what they do, but I'll be damned if I'll live in a country where they don't have the right to do it.
So how do we prevent the WBCs of the world from being insulting assholes? There are only two solutions that I've been able to come up with. The first one doesn't guarantee success, but the second is unacceptable.
1) Educate people. Education won't always work, but it's the only sound way to do it without infringing on the rights of the American People.
2) Limit free speech and start legislating morality. Let the government tell us what we can and can't say, and when and where we are allowed to say it.
If you want true obscenity, I think #2 fits the bill. The idea of limiting free speech is nauseating to me, moreso than the ignorance and hate that we see from Westboro Baptist.
This whole thing reminds me of something that happened in 2004. I was fresh out of technical training school for my job in the Navy and I was on an airplane home for a week's leave. I was in uniform and I happened to be reading Anton LaVey's The Satanic Bible. At one point during the flight, I set it down on the little flip out tray in front of me. The gentleman sitting next to me gasped and said the first of many idiotic things that have since been directed at me because of my ideals and my military service:
"How in the world can you wear that uniform and read that book. That is absolutely disgusting."
Without even looking at him, I politely said, "Sir, the very reason I wear this uniform is so that people can have the right to read this book. Or any book for that matter."
Of course, like most other times, I got no response. Most people in this country can't grasp the full concept of free speech in this country. They feel that free speech means that we're free to say anything that they deem acceptable. Thankfully, that's not how it works.
I know I sound like a broken record, but again: Equal rights are equal rights. If one person is left out, that's one person too many. If that line of thinking doesn't suit you, move to Iran.