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Victory for Hate? Westboro Baptist Church Wins Supreme Court Case, Pakistan’s Christian Minister Gunned Down

posted by Nicole Neroulias

It’s a bad news morning:

Wow. Makes me wish I had stayed in bed longer, especially after an all-nighter with a sick toddler. .

For a silver lining — though it doesn’t make up for an atrocious bit of Catholic “reporting” yesterday – check out: Pope Exonerates Jews for Jesus’ Death in New Book (AP)

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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Henrietta22

posted March 2, 2011 at 1:28 pm


Roberts said, “We cannot react to this pain by the facts before us, by punishing the speakers”. As a nation we have chosen a different course, to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to insure that we do not stifle public debate”.
Justice Alito strongly disagreed, “Our profound national committment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assult that occurred in this case”.
So are we to understand that since Alito was the sole dissenter that the rest of this Court was of the opinion of Roberts?
My feeling as an American is that a funeral is not a recognized place to have a debate. The Westboro Church and their daughter, who is an attorney, have to stay 100 ft. away from the people they are debating?? I’ve never debated physically 100 ft. away from who I was debating. You can debate on line, on the phone, in letters, but not 100ft. from each other. Alito was right.



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nnmns

posted March 2, 2011 at 5:15 pm


It was a strong victory for free speech. And freedom of speech is the most important right we have. With freedom of speech we can always put forth our positions in the marketplace of ideas.
Freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee we’ll always like what’s advocated, in fact it guarantees we won’t always like what gets said. But it does guarantee we can say what we think needs to be said. At least we can’t be stopped legally.
I rejoice in the opinion.



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Robert C

posted March 2, 2011 at 6:50 pm


I understand the opinion however I agree with Alioto. Someone needs to find a way to sue these trolls back into the stone age.



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Mordred08

posted March 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm


Not sure how to feel about this. As much as I feel for the Westboro Backwards Cult’s victims, I can easily see conservative Christians using the opposite outcome as an excuse to get rid of any criticism of their actions by labeling it as “hate speech”. Note to any conservative Christians who might read this: don’t expect to be taken seriously the next time you accuse the LGBT community or anyone else of violating your freedom of speech. Except by your unquestioning followers who’ll believe anything you say.



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MH

posted March 2, 2011 at 7:29 pm


The Pakistani Minister was also called for changes in the country’s blasphemy law which is likely what got him shot. Not that it would help, but I’d love to know why Muslim fanatics think they need to kill people for an powerful being. I would think God is quite capable of it on its own.
I can’t stand the Westboro Baptist Church, but for all their awful faults they aren’t killing people over their twisted ideas.



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Henrietta22

posted March 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm


Westboro Church can carry signs and have a ball on their website of what they believe 24-7, as far as I’m concerned and probably Robert C. and Justice Alito, but a funeral is just that and should not be used to disrespect the family and friends of the deceased. It is harrassement and it should be handled as harrassment, not a question of losing the “Freedom of Speech”. Roberts said we as a nation have chosen to protect hurtful speech, does that mean we are going to protect hateful speech, too? I thought we had gotten to the place of understanding that hate breeds killing. Roberts did not use the word hate he used hurtful; is there a degree of difference? Do we undestand that hurtful is o.k.? Well after hurtful comes hate, and after hate could come killing or suicide. None of which should be connected to “Freedom of Speech” that our forefathers meant.



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Robert C

posted March 2, 2011 at 8:12 pm


good points Henrietta



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nnmns

posted March 2, 2011 at 9:17 pm


As someone commented on NPR’s coverage, hate speech has some protection in the US. The idea is to combat hate speech with other speech.
Of course Fox “News” gets more hate speech out there than any source can combat but we’ll just have to hope people come to realize the lies they’re being fed.



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Jester

posted March 3, 2011 at 12:05 am


Correct me if I’m wrong… but the 1st Amendment was put into place to uphold the right of the people to protest the (and any) government tyranny, right? Given that, I can understand the Wesboro Baptists thinking that since the US military is officially an arm of the US government that they should be allowed to protest military funerals…. But does a military funeral count? Is it an actual function of the government and/or a government action or event? And if so is it a tyrannical event (i.e. forced upon unwilling citizens)? I don’t think so. In the end perhaps it’s a matter of functionality vs. technicality, or perhaps even a separation of Church and State.
As far as the religiousity of this issue goes…. I’m no theologian, but personally I’m in favor of the Christianity that heals, unites, and forgives (Cataphaticist?) rather than the kind that the WBC advocates, which is the one of harm, division, and punishment (Fundamentalist?).



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jestrfyl

posted March 3, 2011 at 12:25 am


Wow, doesn’t the two edged sword of freedom hurt when it hits on the back swing? It is annoying to be reminded that even jerks enjoy freedom of speech.
It seems that people will have to confront the evil directly AND (very important-> AND) Creatively. Blanketing the family and event with silent sentries to keep away the visual and aural noise of the Phelps and his minions . Also – very important – they should not get more attention than absolutely necessary. Phelps does this for attention, like a brat on a playground. What ever is best for a 5 year old brat is probably appropriate for the Phelpsians. Re direct the media attention to the primary matter at hand and reroute the family so they are not assaulted by the spiritual brutality of these low-down guerillas.



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L

posted March 3, 2011 at 5:57 am


Apparently the hackers disagree with the ruling.



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Alicia

posted March 3, 2011 at 10:38 am


The Supreme Court’s decision was a victory for free speech, much as I despise what Westboro Baptist Church does (they have to stay 1,000, not 100 feet away). Try googling “ComicCon” and “Westboro” to see a pictures and video of a great counter-demonstration. I realize a funeral is no place for humorous counter-demonstrations. But, perhaps the VFW could be invited to attend the funeral and form a dignified wall between the Westboro fanatics and those attending the funeral.
Of all the members of the Supreme Court, I trust Alito the least.
The assassination of the Pakistani minister makes me too sad and angry to even think about. We do not face an easy road ahead in that dangerous and troubled land.



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Nicole Neroulias

posted March 3, 2011 at 11:08 am


GetReligion’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey now has a good round-up on the Westboro Baptist Church ruling.



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pagansister

posted March 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm


As much as I dislike the Supreme Court’s decision, which adds fuel to the hatefull group that actually thinks they are “Christian” (what a joke) we do have the right of free speech in this country.(unlike many, many other countries). The ruling means that unfortunatly Westboro does have the right to continue to spew their hate at funerals of soldiers. Perhaps if they didn’t get any publicity at those funerals from the media it would help. Of course it doesn’t help the families of the soldiers who have to see/hear that group of Neanderthals.



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Robert C

posted March 3, 2011 at 12:16 pm


LOL. Is that hacker Jester and ‘our’ Jester the one and the same? Hope so. Go get ‘em fella.
When one considers that the acts perpetrated by this group goes beyond the pure realm of ‘freedom of speech’, as they have rather firmly establish their actions within the context of freedom of expression, yet simultaneously infringe on others rights to privacy and freedom from harm, the court’s decision, while understandable is not laudable. Henrietta was on the right track with her exploration of the difference between hurtful and hateful. Nevertheless I believe that there is a calculable step missed in between, and that is the condition of being harmful.
In their ardor to attack the very existence of gay Americans, which is hateful and specifically a conscious intent to intimidate, and as such is a borderline hate crime and which should be more fully defined by legislation, they have chosen a venue which creates harm, not simply hurt, to an uninvolved audience. Ostensibly they are attacking the government for advancing ‘sinful policies’. As the justices realized, their choice of venue steps over the threshold of public protest over personally held views on public policy. Yet the justices failed to discern that while the targets may not have been specifically and personally identified, the results of their actions were intimately ‘personal’ and caused not pure, simple hurt but irreparable personal harm.
The dead don’t feel such harm having their dignity and honor attacked. We should feel it for them. However each and every mourner, each family member, a spouse, parent, child, sibling, cousin, aunt, walked away from the experience psychologically and emotionally compromised, and psychically stressed to the point of the definition of purposeful abuse. A stray bullet shot into the mourners would have affected less personal harm than this calculated attack. The intent of their acts were not just unseemly public expression, but were fully intended to do harm. This was not a demonstration before the gates of the Arlington National Cemetery this was, albeit on public property, a demonstration targeting private individuals, a family in mourning already distraught with grief, used and manipulated in their hour of grief to emblazon hate speech into the public consciousness, and as such it is akin to falsely and maliciously yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theatre. Such a perverted aspect of ‘freedom’ is not something to be lauded and should rightfully be subject to judicial restriction. Unfortunately Alioto seems to be alone in having the common decency to understand the sublime differences.



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Grumpy Old Person

posted March 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm


I never thought I would agree with alito on anyhing, but this goes FAR beyond mere “speech”. It is harrassment and assault (not to mention libel).
It borders on stalking too.



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Jester

posted March 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm


It wasn’t me, I promise…. tee hee!



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Nicole Neroulias

posted March 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm


One issue I find unresolved in this ruling, and the coverage of this ruling, is that the Phelps clan doesn’t just protest at the funerals of soldiers or gay people (Matthew Shepard) or political figures (Elizabeth Edwards) — which, I suppose, could be interpreted as legit freedom of speech against government policy or homosexuality.
They were also threatening to protest at the funeral of Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old killed in the Tucson assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, until they got what they wanted another way: more publicity, in the form of radio air time. (Wow, according to that link, for God’s sake — literally — they even picketed at Mr. Roger’s funeral!)
Isn’t there a legal difference between free speech and hate speech?



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Robert C

posted March 3, 2011 at 3:51 pm


I wonder Jester! You found that site a wee bit too quickly. LOL
Nicole, I am unsure whether in case law the difference has actually been defined clearly. Here is a neat little discussion thread that explores the question. ( note the comments )
http://www.jimchines.com/2010/09/free-vs-hate-speech/
Supposedly the fact that they have been so non selective in their targets helped justify their position to the courts. Does it matter if someone yells fire maliciously in a theatre, a church, a locker room or at the airport?
Sometimes the depravity of certain actions only hits home when the tables are turned. Now, I am not salivating at the idea of one of the Phelps clan meeting their maker anytime soon.(sic) However how delicious would it be to see Dykes on Bikes, GLAD, a platoon of Navy seals, the formerly aggrieved bereaved, and the VFW join forces and back up Sir Elton on piano, Lady GaGa on back up, with Cee-Lo performing his #1 hit ( a paean to free speech if there ever was one )
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=17eSUnQ-_ek
all the while cavorting across the street from the Westboro Church, stabbing at Phelps voodoo dolls, while the funeral was under way. Delicious indeed.



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Kristi

posted March 4, 2011 at 1:47 am


First of all I view what Westboro did in their “demonstration” to be cruel and completely unnecessary. But more than that, this gets down to the ethics of their actions and attempts for media attention. Westboro claims to be protesting at these military funerals to show that God is punishing the military for the nation’s acceptance of homosexuality. But this is not the only place the group is protesting. As Nicole posted earlier, they were going to protest at Christina Taylor Green’s funeral just for the publicity they would benefit from, but ended up not protesting because they received the attention they wanted in a different way. It is extremely hurtful and inappropriate to use a funeral — where the family is suffering and grieving over their loss — as a debate battleground for the sake of public attention. Even if they weren’t in it for the publicity, there is a time and a place for such matters to be discussed and a funeral is not that place. The Snyders were innocent private citizens that were victimized by Westboro’s insensitivity and twisted views of Christianity. This is on the verge of abusing our First Amendment rights.
In the case of the Christian Pakistani Minister that was gunned down, I feel that he may have been working against the blasphemy law, not just for the sake of religion but to help save citizens from being wrongly accused and unnecessarily punished. In the article that was posted, it said that the convictions based off of this law depended mostly on the witness testimonies of ordinary people. There was no hard evidence of real proof that the convicted were actually breaking the Pakistani law. As a journalism major in America, I view the truth as being the center of any story and I believe that legal systems should hold the same value for the truth in their courts and legislatures. They need support, facts and evidence rather than inclinations and assumptions. Most of the convictions were thrown out on appeal anyway so ultimately the law itself was ineffective and just troublesome — needing to be disposed of. Minister Bhatti steps up to do that task and was shot down for it. What happened to value of humanity and for the truth?



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flipperthedolphin

posted March 4, 2011 at 5:07 am


If this is the case I think it is, I think I smell a rat, and that is what I see as a bit of hypocrisy, by which I mean, that it seems a case of “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”. Let me explain. The case I was thinking about was the one about which I read involving a Baptist minister, which I saw on a friend’s Facebook page, in which the pastor involved threatened to burn the Koran. As passionate as I am being a Christian(and this is just my observation), that there seems to be a bit of double standards here. Some, and I mean some, not all. seem to be at will to dish out their hatred of other religions, and yet, there are no consequences. If the boot was on the other foot, there would almost certainly be huge consequences. When are these ilk going to be held accountable for this?



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Danny Haszard

posted March 5, 2011 at 2:55 pm


Harassment by religious extremist
Jehovah’s Witnesses instigated court decisions in 1942 which involved cursing a police officer calling him a fascist and to get in your face at the door steps,….this same JW 1942 court decision upheld infamous Phelps hate church in 2011
—-
Danny Haszard, more on this group
http://www.dannyhaszard.com



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