A CONSTITUTIONAL DILEMNA
In the United States, the Bill of Rights is the term for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These amendments explicitly limit the Federal government’s powers, protecting the rights of the people by preventing Congress from abridging freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religious worship, and the right to bear arms, preventing unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, and self-incrimination, and guaranteeing due process of law and a speedy public trial with an impartial jury. In addition, the Bill of Rights states that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and reserves all powers not specifically granted to the Federal government to the citizenry or States. These amendments came into effect on December 15, 1791, when ratified by three-fourths of the States.
This Bill of Rights, guarantees to the American people, the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble and freedom of religious worship and others. My question is, do these guaranteed freedoms give us the right to invade someone else’s privacy? Currently, there is a case before the United States Supreme Court involving anti-gay activists and a man whose son, who served in the U.S. Armed Services, and, was killed serving his country, and, I might add, protecting the very rights this group was invoking to protest at his funeral. These activists, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, assembled outside the funeral of this fallen hero, carrying signs that said ” God hates you” and, ” God hates dead soldiers “. According to the group’s lawyer, the group was exercising free speech on a matter of public debate — the Iraq war. Several powerful groups support the group’s right to do this. Those groups include but are not limited to the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Liberty Counsel.
In my opinion, the ACLU has an obligation to remain neutral because the debate centers around issues that dictate impartiality should be exercised on their part. Yes, the constitution guarantees certain rights, seemingly the ones exercised by the Westboro Baptist Church, however, individual American citizens are also granted the right to privacy. The ACLU can not and should not take sides in this matter.
What amazes and appalls me is the signs this ” church ” group were displaying at this hero’s funeral. ” God hates you ” and ” God hates dead soldiers “. ( My not being a religious person puts me at somewhat of a disadvantage here, so, if I get this wrong, I invite people to intelligently set me straight. ) I was always taught in Sunday School and Bible study, ( during the days of my misguided youth ) that God loves all things; people, plants, animals, trees, God loves all; period, no exceptions. Now, we have far right wing religious groups telling us God hates soldiers, homosexuals and all sorts of different groups. Tell me something, where does the blatant hypocracy of religious groups stop? One more thing about freedom of religion, Americans have that right because SOLDIERS fought and died for it during the revolutionary war with Britain. That seems to have been forgotten by the Westboro Baptist Church!
Moving along, another group that supports this church’s right to do this is the ” Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. ” What exactly does freedom of the press have to do with another group’s alleged right to desicrate the funeral of a fallen hero? Could it be that freedom of the press has deteriorated into nothing more than justification for sensationalism? We have seen so much of this in the last 2o years. Journalism in America is no longer about an honest portrayal of news. It has become a venue for sensationalism, partisan politics and God knows what else. The right to freedom of the press protects this, and, it protects the tactics that reporters use to get or pursue a story. I’ll give you an example. Several years ago, in a case involving a close friend, a reporter from our local newspaper followed my friend and members of her family from the courthouse to the parking garage where their car was parked. This reporter never attempted to ask any questions. He simply followed them, pen and pad in hand presumably to write down anything that was said. How are tactics like these protected by the constitution?
The bottom line is this, I don’t believe any person or group should do what the Westboro Baptist Church did. I also do not believe any American Soldier’s funeral should be subjected to this or any other kind of desicration. As Americans, we have an obligation, nay, we have a civic duty to protect those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our liberty. It is not too much to ask that we let their families celebrate their lives and mourn their loss in PEACE!