Imagine, as a father, your child goes off to war for your country and comes back in a body bag. Now, imagine grieving friends and family walking into the church for the funeral ceremony, and just 1,000 feet away there are people singing in protest and holding up signs saying: “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” and “You’re Going to Hell.”
Well, it happened. The father of that fallen soldier, Albert Snyder, sued those protestors who were members of the Westboro Baptist Church and won $11 million in damages. The verdict, however, was later thrown out by the Fourth US District Court of Appeals, citing free speech, and the case was taken to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court unanimously voted to protect free speech in the case. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion “Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and-as it did here-inflict great pain…On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation, we have chosen a different course-to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.” The only justice against the ruling was Samuel Alito who said, “Respondents’ outrageous conduct caused petitioner great injury, and the court now compounds that injury by depriving petitioner of a judgment that acknowledges the wrong he suffered.”
Meanwhile, the church has gained media attention with their controversial message, which is that God is punishing the United States for its tolerance of gay rights by allowing the deaths of US service members. The church plans to protest at more military and high profile events in the wake of the high courts’ decision.
We live in a nation of freedoms. We can burn flags, practice whatever religion we’d like and pretty much say what we feel. We also live in a nation of laws that protect these freedoms…which, in a case like this, goes against every moral fiber of our being. Sometimes we think it would be great if we could legislate common sense, decency, manners and patriotism. But, that’s not how a free society operates, yet we wonder where the grieving family’s right to privacy comes into play? Why aren’t there boundaries to where protests can take place? Don’t the protestors have to get a permit of some sort? We guess we have to count on people to have enough sense to know that protesting a funeral is just painfully wrong. We should be bigger than that….we should be better as a nation than that.
What ever happened to empathy? How can anyone spit in the face of a grieving family? What ever happened to “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes,” and acting with moral decency. At a time when every citizen in our country should be grateful to the families of our nation’s fallen heroes, we just kicked one in the gut. To the Snyder family…America is grateful for your sacrifice…yeah, all 300 million of us (the protestors, too…for their right to spew hate outside of an American hero’s funeral).
May God have mercy on their souls.