Dear Chris Plante,
I was getting in and out of the car all morning so I only caught a couple 15-20 minute segments of your Wednesday show. I enjoyed it as I always do. Here are some thoughts on the lunatics of the Westboro Baptist congregation (I won’t dignify it by calling it a “church”).
There is a significant difference between the government suppressing free speech and enforcing basic dignity and humanity between its citizens.
My freedom to say and do whatever I want is limited by the freedoms of others. When the exercise of my freedom interferes with the exercise of your freedom we have to negotiate. My freedom in that case does not trump your freedom. An example: I am free to walk around naked in my home to my heart’s content. My freedom to be naked becomes negotiable when I take it outside to the mailbox in full view of all my neighbors. Likewise, the lunatics of the Westboro Baptist Asylum are free to protest to their heart’s content until they come into conflict with the rest of us. Their freedom to spew hate doesn’t trump our freedom to live in serenity.
A military funeral is more than marking the end of a life. I have officiated at a military funeral and personally handed the folded flag to a grieving widow. It is an opportunity for the Nation to thank the family of the service member. It is dignified and it is a once in a lifetime event that deserves to be protected. We already restrict the free exercise of speech by keeping people off private property, or keeping them back from abortion clinics, or by putting a fence around the White House. People who disrupt Congressional hearings are escorted out. Hiding Westboro Baptist hate behind the First Amendment is ludicrous.
The First Amendment also doesn’t guarantee an audience. The Westboro knot heads can move it on down the road if their antics disturb freedom loving patriotic Americans in their grief.