Torture is not protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. In fact, it is not supported in any amendment.
The first amendment states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
These words that we hold so dear where meant to have a few common sense obvious effects. They were intended to protect everyone’s right to worship or not worship as they please. Even though the phrase “One Nation Under God” appears often in American politics, you do not have to follow that god.
Secondly, they are intended to protect the rights of the common man to object to the behavior of his government in a very visible way without risk of backlash (in the case of protest), or in a more verbal but quieter way (in the case of petition).
Third, it protects the rights of the press to record and distribute information, even if that information is not comfortable for the people in power.
Our country was founded because the powers of the time did not practice these things. To insure that our new government did, they codified them in the very document that acts as the foundation of our Union.
It is this document that we look to in order to judge the validity of every law that is passed in our country. It is not a perfect document, but it is one that a lot of people have put a lot of thought into. This is why we have amendments to start with. To many people, the first amendment is the most important, for the reasons stated above.
Its sole purpose is to protect the little guy. More importantly, it is to protect the basic and natural behavior that can be expected of any rational human being when their rights are trod upon.
The entire document is primarily about protection of these very people. No where does it say that an outside entity has the right to torment, harass, and torture any citizen for any reason.
Enter Westboro Baptist Church. I do not normally speak like this of anyone, but they are a hate group that hides behind their “God,” and a twisted interpretation of the first amendment while they torture the families and loved ones of our nations fallen. I put “God” in parenthesis, because of all the various denominations of Christianity (of which they claim membership) that I have experienced, NONE of them worship a God that would condone the torture of people in his name.
Now that I have spoken in that manner, I should probably explain WHY I feel the way that I do. I am sure that there are those who have not heard of them.
These people do not picket companies. They do not picket government buildings or events. They do not stage independent rallies to share their views loudly with the world.
No, they crash funerals. They travel around the country, protesting funerals. They watch the news, and scour the air ways and internet for word that a fallen solder has come home for their final rest, and they put together a personalized protest just for him or her, complete with photographs of the fallen so that the families know that it IS about them.
They are fond of slogans like “God Hates Fags” (Yes, the URL above really does appear to be theirs), “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” and “Thank God for IED’S.”
Their website (linked above) even has a schedule of events that they plan to picket in the near future. I have looked over the list, and on it they have three protests scheduled in the near future (one yesterday) for military funerals. Three are flat out anti-semetic. The rest are mostly either against other Christian groups, or Lady Gaga… No, that is not a joke.
Of the ones that are not military funerals, several of the others are targeting families not organizations.
They go around saying hateful, hurtful, angry things, and getting in the faces of people who THOUGHT they had gone through the worst that life could offer them. People who are already dealing with the loss of a son, a daughter, a husband, a brother, a wife… Suddenly they find themselves the focus of a terrorist attack, carried out by their fellow Americans!
I have been thinking about this for a while. I am an American Sailor. The idea of going to war is a little scary, but it is no where near as terrifying for me as the idea that if I were to die, my mother and father would likely be tortured by these people. While they are still working their way through the grief process, they could find themselves receiving messages that people were glad I was dead. “God hates Fags! God hates the military! I am glad your faggy son is dead.” That is the kind of things that these people are saying at these protests.
The constitution guarantees your right to stand outside of city hall and yell whatever the hell you want. Right or wrong, you can protest the local bank, or the health department, or whatever organization that has you pissed off this week. Fill out the paperwork, and get your permit. You are good to go.
The constitution does not however give you the right to be disruptive, and hateful, and threatening, and vulgar, while people are carrying out the single most solemn ceremony that exists in any faith.
When someone has died and their loved ones are laying them to rest they should be allowed a moment of piece. They are sure to have many sleepless and painful nights even without outside interference. When people are in pain, the proper response is not to intentionally make it worse.
What I have said may seem like common sense to a lot of people, but apparently not to everyone. The case of Snyder vs. Phelps is heading quickly towards the Supreme Court, and amicus briefs are being filed in support of both sides.
This is part of what finally convinced me to take the time to write a full blog entry on the subject.
In an article in Stars and Stripes, dated 18 July (It may have a different date stateside), they speak of 20 media groups that are siding with Westboro Baptist Church on the issue. It seems that they feel that psychological torture of individuals (individuals, not organizations) is protected under the first amendment. In the case of Snyder vs Phelps, they flew all the way from Kansas to Maryland to target a family. They could have just as easily made the same statement in ANY other situation, and I would not object. I do not agree with them. I think they are hate mongers and bigots, but they have a right to be.
However, I do not agree with the assertion that their right to be bigots allows them to attack people.
There is a blog entry (basically very similar to the printed paper article) at the Stars and Stripes site. They list the organizations there.
I can see the organizations worries, but they fail to see the difference between news coverage of an event, and personal attacks on individual citizens. They fail to realize that the issue here is nothing like a reporter covering a story. It is more like a mugger being told he did a good job, and was welcome to keep at it.
People have to know that there is a line between peaceful protest, and personal attacks.
It is late, and I am running out of steam, so I will leave off here. I know it is not often that I get two blog entries in the same month (or quarter for that matter), but some things have to be said. Some things just make your head want to explode.
This is one of those things.