Thursday, October 07, 2010

Testing the Limits of Free Speech

First, I want to apologize to my regular readers if you find the above photograph "offensive." I debated with myself whether or not to post such an image. My point is that I wanted to write a post about the Supreme Court case that was argued on Wednesday about free speech in regards to a hateful little Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. This hateful little group, led by homophobic preacher Fred Phelps, has pretty much made an enemy out of anyone because of their illogical strategies. Since they have no shame in being offensive to others with their vile hate speech, I think its only appropriate to feature a photoshopped picture of the pastor doing a deed he seems to have an unhealthy obsession about.

Who is Fred Phelps and why does he hate so much? He has made a name for himself as the most hateful preacher in America. He is the face of hate. According to news reports, his Westboro Baptist Church is made up of 60 members, nearly all of the attendees are members of his large family. Sounds like an inbred cult to me. They came to most people's attention back in the late 1990s when a gay young man named Matthew Shepherd was brutally beaten and left for dead on a fence post in Wyoming. Phelps dispatched a team with signs that bore the simple phrase: "God Hates Fags." That is his mantra. Funny, though. In my years of living, hate was never a word I ever associated with God. Hate and God are incompatable. If I know anything at all, its that God is incapable of hating. Hatred is a human emotion, a reflection of the ego that disdains anything different from us. When I see a sign where hate is assigned to God, I feel sorry for those people for not knowing the God of love as I know God. Once you've experienced even a fragment of that love, you can never doubt that God loves all, including someone as vile as Hitler or Phelps.

Sometime in the last decade, Phelps and his gang of inbred hate-mongers got the idea to protest military funerals. It didn't matter if the soldier being buried was straight or gay, this church still showed up with their "God Hates Fags" signs in protest. They didn't care who was offended. Seeing grieving family and friends honour a fallen loved one struck no chords of compassion within these people. They are so agenda-bound that they continued on with their hate campaign. Funeral after funeral. Year after year. Do these fuckers even work? Or are they on welfare? Someone should really check into this.

When I first heard about them protesting military funerals, I was baffled. Why the military? I thought they liked the military's ban on gay people. It didn't make logical sense. That's when I learned about their reasons why, which is even more baffling. These people lack any kind of spiritual knowledge in regards to causality. They suffer from the same ignorance that inflicts televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Like those two far more successful charlatans, Phelps believes that God is punishing soldiers in the military by having them die in Iraq and Afghanistan as punishment for America's sin of tolerance for homosexuals and women who have abortions. Whoa! Really? How do they come up with this shit anyway? Those issues are not even connected in any way. Besides, who believes in a punishing God who would kill innocent people for the "sins" of the guilty? This is another example of the conservative mindset where God is always punishing innocent people for the sins of the guilty. I don't know about you, but logic matters to me. I like the logic of karmic law. Even the Bible discusses it: "whatever ye shall sow, so shall ye reap." What goes around, comes back around.

So alienating is this church, that even my own homophobic, conservative evangelical uncle (who believes the church he was raised in and was a member of for nearly 50 years of his life is a "cult") thinks Fred Phelps is "out there." Now that's saying something! At nearly every family gathering, my uncle lets it be known to everyone what he thinks of gay people and to the rest of us, we find it strange that he's so obsessed with homosexuality (if you find something disgusting, why would you talk or think about it a lot? It doesn't make sense). Yet, even despite his fanatical obsession, he thinks Phelps goes too far. That's a relief. It is encouraging to know that many people in our country, despite our political differences, can all agree on something: Fred Phelps is a certifiable douchebag. Basic psychology says that he is projecting his shadows on other people, so it only makes one wonder if he's not the biggest self-loathing closeted homosexual around. Someone needs to do some nifty undercover work.

This brings us to the idea of free speech. As I learned in my political science courses in college when the issue came up, professors seemed to have a consensus that the First Amendment rights to free speech was meant to protect political speech, not hate speech or pornography. The idea is based on the fact that at the time of our country's founding, people in Europe could be arrested for making critical comments about members of the royal families in all the monarchies. In fact, when a European saw a critical news story about President Jefferson in an American newspaper, he had asked why Jefferson allowed that to be printed. He could not understand the concept of free speech in that way, but Jefferson explained that someone having a difference of opinion and writing freely about it did not make his presidency any less legitimate. It was truly a bold new idea on the world scene.

Should that level of protected free speech be extended to any group of people wanting to protest at a funeral? I can understand the slippery slope this case presents. If one starts limiting free speech, where does it end? Does the Ku Klux Klan have a right to march on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as they have done every year in Atlanta since the 1980s? Does a radio talk show host have a right to use the word "nigger" on her show? Can a church show up with hateful placards at any peaceful gathering? Can a pastor burn the Qur'an in a public protest? Should anti-war protesters be allowed to burn the American flag? These are just some of the many questions posed by this case before the Supreme Court.

If I were to make a decision, it would be that funerals are private gatherings and no group should be allowed to protest as a matter of respect for the grieving families. Is this censorship? I don't think so, because the church is still free to bring their protests elsewhere. If they want to have a special parade, let them fill out a permit and march down the street on the designated day at the designated time. These people should be directing their protests at the government, not grieving families. I simply don't understand what their objective is, because they are actually pushing more people away than winning converts. The church is so small and inbred that you have to wonder if cousins are starting to marry each other for lack of finding spouses outside of their hate-filled cult.

When I saw the segments on the ABC World News Tonight program yesterday, I was stunned by how much damage hatred can do to the human body. Those are some ugly-ass people. Prunefaced, unhappy people. I actually feel sorry for them. Someday, they will have to face God and account for their lives on earth. How awful it must feel to learn too late that the Creator of the universe is a powerful being of love--an over powering energy field of positive, life affirming love--and to have nothing to show for your life but the hate you have carried your entire life, causing more grief and pain in grieving people who lost a loved one in a senseless act of war. It has nothing to do with human sexuality or abortion. It has everything to do with you, your experiences, and what you brought forth in the world. These people are going to be hating life when they discover that the only hate that exists is the ones they carry within.

When I saw a picture of the homophobic preacher Fred Phelps, the image that came immediately to my mind is that he looks an awful lot like the creepy preacher man in 1986's Poltergeist II. That guy was also a demon in disguise. I can't watch that movie today because it creeped me out so bad as a teenager. I hate posting the creepy preacher man's picture on my blog, but you just have to see for a comparison between the two preachers. The face of hatred and deceit.


Anonymous said...

Hooray for you, Sansego! You know something that bothers the daylights out of me? They (government) will allow these heinous demonic cultists to infuse the grieving time of a family, yet if one person opens his or her mouth and threatens the president, free speech flies out the window and that person is arrested. What happened to the Constitutional right of free speech in that regard?? God is Love, not hate or revenge. I whole-heartedly agree. Having the conviction of reincarnation and karma that I have, I know these souls will surely reap what they sow. Meanwhile, they are being hurtful in a manner that shouldn't be tolerated in our country. What goes for one should go for all. if people can protest the war or anything else, loudly and vocally, why can't they loudly and vocally attack the president....with words, not deeds? If a person threatens another person, law enforcement refuses to take action unless and until the person who makes the threat actually DOES something, and then it's too late. But there is no free speech allowed towards the president. This is irony. I'm not speaking of Obama or any president in particular...simply the person who may be in the position at any given time. The Constitution has become a sham, and I'm ashamed. cj

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Cool. Go for it, sansego. I love this blog already.