Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Fight Hate by Killing Free Speech

I’m sure most of you have read or heard by now that the Westboro Baptist Church, out of Topeka, KS, has decided to picket the funeral of the nine year old girl who was murdered last weekend in Arizona, as well as other victims’ funerals while they are in town.

In order to combat the added atrocity of the WBC’s expression of their right to free speech, as abhorrent as it is, the local government has passed legislation to restrict the WBC from coming within 300 feet of the funeral site or the burial grounds.

*insert wild applause*

I think the Westboro Baptist Church is a dangerous hate group.  I think many reasons they have been allowed to thrive is because many upstanding citizens actually agree with a lot of what they have to say.  I think that many people with extreme conservative views silently applaud at the WBC’s lack of apology for their views, their ridiculous signs and their willingness to pull their children into their Army of Right in the Culture War.

However, I’m also a fan of free speech.  I’m a huge fan of honesty and truthfulness and this legislation is anything but.  The WBC, headed by Fred Phelps, is well aware of their rights.  They never planned to protest inside the 300 feet limit in the first place (I think they were trying for a two-fer by protesting in intersections near more than one funeral.)  Fred Phelps, believe it or not, used to be a civil rights attorney, protecting the rights of African Americans way, way back in the day.  Fred Phelps is a highly intelligent man, as is his daughter, who is also an attorney.

The passing of legislation in order to “make people feel better” because they are hurting and about to be hurting even more by the actions of a group that doesn’t know the meaning of the word compassion seems a little bit insulting to me.  It seems patronizing.  It won’t actually do anything, since the WBC wasn’t planning to violate the terms provided in the first place.   It doesn’t protect the families, it whittles away just a little bit more of our First Amendment rights and it screams “Disingenuous!” from Arizona politicians (shocking, I know.)

There is a better way to combat hate.  Trampling on the Constitution is not my first choice to fight problems.  If any of you are interested in doing something that might actually make a difference, click here.  For every hour that the WBC protests over the next month, you can sponsor them with a donation to help victims in Haiti. is an organization looking to create positivity out of hate.  They are using their free speech rights to raise money for a good cause, without the law, with just grassroots organization.

I feel for these families.  I have a son; Jim has a son who will be 9 this month.  I cannot imagine the pain this mother must be feeling.  We cannot let emotions rule the day when it comes to legislation.  I firmly believe we are smarter, more creative than all that.


Written by thelittlepecan

January 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Posted in atheism

Tagged with , ,

27 Responses

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  1. Is respectful silence a protected form of free speech?

    This is a weird one isn’t it. WBC is protected from people storming into their church and harassing them during their services. The protection is in the 1st amendment: congress shall make no laws “prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]”, or “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. When the family of the little girl wish to peaceably assemble to practice their religious rituals associated with burial we question whether the 1st amendment rights of the WBC should trump theirs? The WBC’s 1st amendment rights are protected by due process of law in that the law would be nullified if they could show that:

    1) Their right to speech was being unduly burdened by requiring them to speak someplace else
    2) They were not intending to impede the mourners’ exercise of their 1st amendment rights.
    3) The law was not being applied to other groups who wished to do the same thing.

    There is a right to speech, but listeners are not guaranteed. There is a 1st amendment protection, but that protection is moderated when your practice of a 1st amendment right is performed in a calculated way designed to prevent others from reasonably practicing theirs.


    January 13, 2011 at 11:11 am

    • Of course listeners aren’t guaranteed. I doubt anyone much listens to these nut jobs in the first place.

      I think the trespassing laws/ordinaces about assembly probably address point #1.

      I think those same laws address point number two and if they didn’t, I think the fact that they were already planning a much farther away spot addresses point #2.

      I can’t imagine any other group wanting to do this. Sort of like bigamy laws, if there’s only one group wanting to do something and you make that law, stands to reason that the law is specific to the group, yes?

      As always, AOA, good to see ya!


      January 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm

  2. I didn’t find my reference to the Framers any more irrelevant the yours.
    Seems it is time to take my …. “Lip service that won’t Do anything, my frivolous bullshit, my patronization and my irrelevancy” (as you so respectfully put it) and move on.

    Chris Slagle

    January 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    • Oh for Pete’s sake I said the legislation was all of those things. I try not to make a habit out of insulting my readers. I genuinely appreciate all of them, including the ones who don’t agree with me. If that was not clear, I sincerely apologize.


      January 12, 2011 at 9:02 pm

  3. For the sake of civility I won’t expound on the differences between a family’s funeral for an nine year old daughter that was just murdered and a gay parade.
    I doubt that in the time of the “framers” anyone would have aloud this to happen at a funeral, no matter how vile election rhetoric was.

    Chris Slagle

    January 12, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    • I think we are all aware of the differences, though maybe the similarities of being hassled when you want to be left alone to be who you are might not be so much. I am a mom, so I’m sure I can empathize. We can speculated on what the Framers would have allowed all day long, but that’s irrelevant since we are here and they are dead. All the relevant points are being dismissed simply because the WBC pisses people off. I get it, they piss me off, too, I just think they have a right to do what they do. No one is required to agree with me, though the Supreme Court seems to, which is pretty good enough for me.


      January 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm

  4. Free speech rights are beginning to trump personal rights.
    It can be done….. just as limiting the fire power a person can carry in public does not take away their right to own a gun or bear arms. Just as limiting the rate of speed you drive was not implemented to take away your right to speed but to protect the safety of other citizens. You are still allowed to drive. It can be done….. it is better than doing nothing.
    In no way should the irrational fear of “What If” keep us from dealing with “What Is”.

    Chris Slagle

    January 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    • Free speech is a personal right. No one has the right to not be offended, to npot get their feelings hurt, hell to not be outright enraged. Not me, not you, not any of us.


      January 12, 2011 at 6:01 pm

  5. As abhorrent as I find the WBC, I have to wonder why the media continues to give them a forum to promote their hatred. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that news outlets are required to report on their activities. These vile people wouldn’t protest if they didn’t receive publicity: it’s the fuel that feeds their fire.


    January 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm

  6. I’m one of those weirdos who don’t think freedom of speech is so sacrosanct that it trumps all other considerations. Still, we’d better be careful how we abridge it. I’m just wondering if freedom of speech necessarily means you can say anything you want anywhere you want. Are we depriving these nutjobs their freedom of speech just because we won’t let them speak within 300 feet of the funeral site? I mean, this is a big country with lots and lots and lots of places where they can stand and spew their hate unimpeded. Who says we have to let them close enough so they can hurl what amounts to obscenities at a grieving family that just lost their little girl? How is keeping Phelps & Co. at a distance denying them the right to say what they want to say?


    January 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    • Who draws the line? The Framers were no stranger to abhorrent action, some of them ran horribly vile presidential campaigns with no thought to how the words they used effected the victims. If we say no to this speech, what then is next? Some of you have missed the part where WBC was never planning to picket within that 300 feet in the first place, so all this is is lipservice. It doesn’t DO anything. I think I have the right to say whatever I want, when I want. Is that always well advised? No. Should I do it? No. But should I have the right? Yes. We already have plenty of restrictions on speech as it is, adding frivolous bullshit doesn’t do anything for anyone.


      January 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      • I think the issue isn’t that the church planned to hold its demonstration a distance away anyway. The question is, should it have the right to say anything it wants anywhere it wants to? Again, I don’t think restricting where the speech is uttered is the same thing as saying it can’t be uttered. Furthermore, the right to free speech is not a guarantee of an audience. Although not explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, surely most of us agree that your freedom of speech doesn’t imply that I am under any compulsion to hear what you say. As Chris said above, the family is largely a captive audience here, because they have little or no choice about where they’ll be. Again, it’s not that Phelps doesn’t have a right to talk. It’s just that no one should be forced to pay attention.

        Yes, there are lines to be drawn. There always are. There have to be, because there’s no such thing as an absolute right. Simply pointing out that it’s often hard to decide where the lines are to be drawn isn’t going to change that. This discussion is part of the process of deciding where to draw those lines.


        January 12, 2011 at 5:31 pm

        • I don’t see how they are a captive audience when the Phelps had planned to be well over 1000 feet away at an intersection. There’s a downside to many rights. This is one of them. Are the LGBT community held captive when the WBC protests PRIDE parades? Whose rights win out? It’s a slippery slope. The Phelps have always opperated within the law, that’s how they work. They aren’t stupid. Changing the rules in the middle of the game is unethical. But, again, my issue is mostly with the fact that the whole thing is a patronization that isn’t doing anything. If we ignore them, instead of pandering to their bull, they will eventually go away.


          January 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm

          • I’m merely saying that for the lawmakers to enact a law requiring Phelps to stay 300 feet away doesn’t abridge free speech. (That new law is what you’re objecting to in this thread, right?) That the church didn’t mean to come that close anyway is, to me, virtually irrelevant. It was a precautionary measure that in my opinion violates neither the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution.

            “If we ignore them, instead of pandering to their bull, they will eventually go away.”

            You may be right about that. And they will go away in time, regardless. Once old man Phelps is gone, I suspect the church will fold; or, at least, sink below the mud. Unfortunately, there are others just as kooky waiting in the wings, ready to fill the void.


            January 13, 2011 at 7:13 am

          • The reason I feel it is a violation is because it begins a slippery slope. However, my main objection is that this law doesn’t do anything. There are already trespassing law, the group was never planning to be that close, this legislation isn’t protecting the families of the victims from anything. I really do just think it’s lipservice by politicians.


            January 13, 2011 at 8:57 am

          • There was already a law preventing demonstrations within 300 feed of funerals. The new law, as I understand it from that news report, was specifically targeted against WBC.


            January 13, 2011 at 8:37 am

          • I don’t know. I just know that it isn’t doing anything that wasn’t already happening on it’s own. If the law doesn’t do anything, why make one? It’s superfluous.


            January 13, 2011 at 8:59 am

          • Of course, I could point out that you’re employing slippery slope reasoning. But objections like that get thrown around too much, and often where they don’t apply. The truth is, slopes tend to be slippery. That’s why we worry about them.

            I wasn’t aware there was another, similar law already in place. And I, too, am not keen on enacting new laws willy-nilly. I stand by my basic arguments above, but I think it’s time to let this one go.


            January 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm

          • Mike, it has been a pleasure. Hope to see you here again soon!


            January 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm

          • I’ve got you bookmarked. I’ll check in from time to time.


            January 13, 2011 at 7:21 pm

  7. Perhaps we should consider a little freedom from speech. By protesting a funeral or burial service where attendants don’t have the luxury of leaving and rescheduling such an “event” the WBC can, in essence, trap people and “force” them to hear their opinions.
    Freedom of speech is being twisted and abused. I am sure it was never meant to protect people’s right to disrupt such a solemn, personal and painful ceremony.
    Let’s fix this…….

    Chris Slagle

    January 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    • What on Earth would these idiots be protesting at the funeral of a little girl? These WBC are truly repugnant, and it sickens me to even consider that anybody would be secretly cheering them from the sidelines.

      As our president said just this evening, only in far prettier words, we should be the democracy that our children imagine us to be. We should behave with the civility we have taught them to expect of us.

      And I’m sorry, while I completely agree that we must protect and keep our freedom of speech, which has been awfully threatened lately………to hell with them. They need to stay away from the funeral. In fact, I’d prefer them to stay away from all funerals. There ought to be laws protecting people who are mourning in a graveyard the loss of their loved ones. Just as I would not want protesters screaming angry words at me during the birth of my child, I would not want them cheering the death of my child.

      In this case, they are overstepping their rights, they are hurting others, and our government ought to protect the public from harm.

      This is life and death stuff. Blessing and celebrating the birth of a new life should be sacrosanct and safe from ugly idiots. Just so, the exiting of life should be afforded a bit of dignity too, and when family gather together with aching hearts……..protests shouldn’t be allowed near. 300 feet seems pretty little to ask for.


      January 13, 2011 at 12:39 am

      • No, they are not over stepping their rights. They’ve been taken to court so many times over this, again they know exactly where the lines are drawn. No one is guaranteed a life without any har. No one is guaranteed the right to a life without people saying mean things, even at the worst times in our lives. Protecting the speech that repulses us protects the speech that we appreciate.


        January 13, 2011 at 8:53 am

  8. I should have refreshed the page before I commented. Janiepie already handled my take. lol


    January 12, 2011 at 2:40 pm

  9. It also feeds right into their publicity machine. They are now being actively persecuted by a government institution.

    These people are trolls. The only way to combat a troll is to ignore them. They are beyond contempt. Make them beneath notice as well.


    January 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

  10. My strategy is to ignore the bas*****. It is much more effective to show that they can’t win by silencing them with silence. If we don’t engage, they are just background noise.

  11. I was just told this over at Trish’s FB page —

    President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” If a republican should be killed can I blame the president who said ” If they bring a knife we bring a gun?” I’d bet a million dollars that the media would not make a peep. It is called free speach. Go live in China if you don’t like it.

    Well, okay, any godless liberals talking social responsibility were told that, I suppose. I was personally told my “world view” is such that nothing prophet Beck says will reach me. Aren’t these the ‘do unto others/love one another/my brother’s keeper’ contingent? Maybe they should try looking at this verse from the handbook —

    1 Corinthians: 8:12, But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

    Just a thought. One I may go share on her thread.


    January 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

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