Do you agree with the Supreme Court's majority ruling that the Westboro Baptist Church has every right to protest at soldiers' funerals? Why or why not? What would be your moral reasoning?

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carolynosborne eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

The idea behind freedom of speech is that citizens need to know they have the right to state their opinions without governmental limitations. This is a valuable freedom because it allows citizens to have a voice in changing unjust laws. Had there not been freedom of speech, the Civil Rights movement would have been significantly impeded, especially in the South. 

This amendment doesn't allow limitations on free speech, even if the nature of the speech is heinous. I consider what Westboro Baptist Church does to be morally wrong, especially from a Christian perspective. In the Gospels, the four books of the Bible that describe Jesus Christ's life, Jesus had plenty of opportunities to speak out against sinners and even have them killed. For example, a woman was brought to Jesus because she was caught in adultery, a crime punishable by death at that time.

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (John 8:3-11, King James Version).

The Westboro Baptist Church does not show the kind of love, mercy, and understanding that Jesus did. From a moral standpoint, Westboro Baptist Church members are completely in the wrong.

Despite the fact that Westboro Baptist Church is morally wrong, if freedom of speech is compromised because someone uses it aggressively to hurt others, our country will ultimately lose the ability to improve justice over time.

When we have freedom of speech, we have to allow crackpots to speak. We don't have to listen to them, we don't have to choose to associate with them, we can use our freedom of speech to criticize them, and we can encourage people to find a different church to attend, but the long-term safety of this country depends on people being able to speak their minds.