Thursday, October 07, 2010

freedom of speech

I've been thinking a lot about freedom of speech lately. I think we have strayed a great deal from the original intent of this right. The freedom to dissent, to speak out against the government, to freely express political ideas is an amazing gift, one that protects and strengthens our democracy. It does not seem to me that freedom of speech extends to saying anything you want to anyone at any time, without consequence.

The Westboro Baptist Church has a right to say whatever vile thing they want about the war and it's causes. They have a right to do this in public. This doesn't mean they have the right to disrupt a private funeral with their protest. They can picket a courthouse, or the state house, or Congress. They can picket in front of the White House. They can hold a march or a rally to get their point across. No one is stopping them. They can't attend your wedding, or your birthday party, or grandma and grandpa's retirement party. They can't picket a serviceman's funeral, just because he died in service. That is insufficient to make it public property or a public event.

Saying they cannot protest at a funeral does not impinge on their freedom of speech. They are free to protest 364 other days of the year, or to picket 365 days in a different public location. They can talk to the press, get on the tv news, whatever. THeir message will unfortunately be heard. No one is stopping them. Just telling them they don't get to harm anyone else while exercising their right to free speech.

1 comment:

Kitten Herder said...

Free speech is one thing. However, there needs to be a certain amount of privacy and grace granted to private and emotional events. Funerals and weddings are the primary such events that come to mind. If you are involved in such an event, I am entitled to say whatever I want ... so long as it does not impinge on YOUR right to experience your private event. Funerals and weddings are not 'public' even if they are held in or near public places.

This type of stretching of the constitution to hurt people sickens me.