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Real Answers™
Copyright: ©2010 William Cripe Sr.
645 words


By: William Cripe Sr.

Free speech:  Rarely have two words been responsible for as much inconsistency in the application of law.  When it comes down to an issue of common decency or common sense, the courts become apoplectic if faced with the not-so-hard to define bounds of propriety. 


Currently before the Supreme Court is the case of the obscene little cult of people who go by the name of Westboro Baptist Church.  If you don't know their name, you know their hatred.  They are the ones that picket the funerals of our fallen military heroes and others of note holding signs that say, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Hates Fags," and "Thank God for Breast Cancer," to mention only a few.  How in heaven's name this is confused with the Apostle Paul's admonition concerning "Speaking the truth in love…" is a mystery.  Never-the-less, Jesus' words are reassuring; "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment."  (Matthew 12:36)


The "church's" lawyer, one of the members of the cult, is a confused cesspool of biblical quotes removed from any biblical context.  As Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul, producing holy witness, is like a villain with a smiling cheek…" 


So when Albert Snyder's son was killed in the Middle East the Westboro Baptist church arrived with their demonically infused venom.  Mr. Snyder sued the church for emotional distress and invasion of privacy winning a $5 million judgment in one court only to be overturned by a higher court.  Now it rests with the Supreme Court of the land and the wrangling among the justices sounds like children trying to explain the origins of life.  Only a wayward society struggles with such issues of decorum and there always seems to be a panic whenever "free speech" is uttered in defense of something offensive.  


In today's bizarre world of hypersensitivity, I agree that even offensive speech must be protected.  But let's face it, the standard of "free speech" is so consistently misapplied that on the same campus one set of students may display fallacious pictures, profane posters, or vulgar signs supporting the campus, cause-du-jour.  Yet on the same campus, students are prohibited from access to military recruiters or a teacher is called on the carpet for having a Bible laying out in plain view.  These things are rarely an issue of what is obscene or offensive but more, who is going to decide.


In 1957 the hand wringing began over what constitutes "obscene" behavior in Roth vs. United States. While the issue was pornography, the standard is still valuable.  Obscenity was deemed to be that which "to the average person applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest" and which is "utterly without redeeming social importance..."  Striking the "appeals to prurient interest" segment, the statement yields a succinct yard stick to measure speech that serves utterly no purpose (in this case) but to inflict emotional pain on honorable people at a particularly defenseless and vulnerable place in their lives. 


Maintaining free speech while restricting where that speech might be exercised is not a new consideration.  For example, the Supreme Court determined that no one was entitled to yell "Fire!" just for kicks in a crowded theater.  Such a common sense restriction abridges no one's freedom.  And if I am in my church building Sunday morning and someone begins shouting me down, they will be removed from the venue.  Their hallowed freedom of speech isn't abridged, only the time and place it is exercised.


We can only hope the Supreme Court rules against the Westboro Baptist Church--for the issue isn't their speech as vile as it is, but the venue in which they spew it.


"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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