31 March 2010

In Defense of the First

I am about to say something that will probably not endear me to the more conservative of my readers.

It has to do with the recent decision by the Fourth Court of Appeals to overturn the award given to the father of slain Marine LCPL Matthew Snyder and the order by the same court for him to pay the Westboro Baptist Church $16,510 in legal fees.

The Westboro Baptist Church, for the two or three of you that don't know, pickets the funerals of fallen servicemembers holding such signs as "Thank God For Dead Soldiers" to protest Don't Ask Don't Tell. They are of the opinion that DADT is a wink and a nod at homosexuals serving in the ranks, and say that God allows our servicemembers to die because of that sinful act. (No link to that hateful group, Google them if you haven't had your daily dose of filth.)

Their protests are without honor and all in the Fred Phelps hate cult are reprehensible and vile people. I believe there is a special place reserved in Hell for them, right next to ambulance chasing lawyers. (FWIW, several of them are lawyers themselves.)

Here's where I will cause the howls of outrage.

I do not believe that Albert Snyder should have ever been awarded a settlement. As reprehensible as the actions of the WBC are, I believe they are protected under the free speech clause of the First Amendment, and the award was a violation of that Amendment.

I likewise do not support any effort to bring the police power of the Federal, State or local governments against the WBC as long as they are not causing physical or financial harm. I believe the First Amendment gives them the right to be as reprehensible as they want to be as long as they are not causing physical or financial harm. Where do I draw the line, you may ask. My answer is at physical or financial harm.

The reason I do not support the passage of any laws aimed against them is that the same laws that would bar the WBC from protesting could also conceivably be used to keep the Patriot Guard Riders from forming their flag lines. The same laws that would shut Code Pinko up could also be used to shut the Tea Parties down. Any laws you agree to pass that ends up silencing your enemies can also conceivably be used to silence your supporters.

If you truly support the freedom of speech included in the First Amendment, you must support the right of people you disagree with to say disagreeable things in a disagreeable manner, as long as they are not causing physical or financial harm. (Crying "Fire!" in a crowded theater directly causes physical and financial harm, for instance, so that is not allowed.)

The problem with "reasonable" restrictions on our freedoms, regardless of the Amendment involved, is with who gets to define "reasonable" as proponents of the Second can well attest. Who defines reasonable? In my opinion there is no such thing as a reasonable restriction on my rights.

Remember the hue and cry over Deem and Pass, and the leftists pointing out "Well the Republicans did it too!" Yes they did, which is why Deem and Pass should have never been allowed, for any reason at all. The same cudgel you form to smite your enemies can be turned against you, which is why we were warned that Government, like fire, is a handy servant and a dangerous master.

I also do not support the Fourth Court's decision to award legal fees to the WBC. I can't for the life of me see where they can justify that decision, but I trust the Supreme Court will settle it out.

And if they don't, Bill O'Reilly has pledged to pay them for Albert Snyder. Contact your local VFW if you would like to help.

UPDATE: Smart conservative Ivy League trained lawyer Ann Colter gets it wrong. I'm not a smart Ivy League lawyer, but maybe Ann should read my column.


Mike Mendez said...

The only thing I would add is this:
The WBC is not recognized by any Baptist convention. They are not a real church, it is Fred and his family, and some wacko friends.
I am not a Baptist, but I do know that there is no copyright to using that word. You can call anything Baptist, and as we see, some do.

Larry said...

That is absolutely correct Mike, and I should have added that in the commentary. Fred Phelps and his crew are as much Baptists as I am a bald eagle.
Thanks for dropping by!