Thursday, March 23, 2006

Crisis of Faith: The true test of free speech is to support the right of someone to advocate something you would spend a lifetime opposing. That means despicable creatures such as Nazis, the KKK, and Carrot Top have equal right to free expression as the rest of us. (Cue Voltaire: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.")

Of course, that means someone will eventually show up who pushes that philosophy to its very limit. Along comes Fred Phelps. Eugene Volokh describes him as a "cruel parody of a Christian".

[He] has pioneered the practice of protesting people's funerals. Starting with the 1980s, he and his people picketed funerals of gays while carrying signs saying things like "God Hates Fags." Now, they picket funerals of soldiers with signs saying things like "Thank God for 9/11" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" (the theory being that God is punishing America for its toleration of homosexuality).
Is there any social benefit to protesting at funerals? How is public discourse promoted? One thing I like about Volokh, is as a good lawyer he can dissect an issue to find its legal elements, leaving out "ought" and "should", and focusing on "is" and "are".

Part of me would love to ban all protests at funerals outright. But that sets a dangerous precedent. It seems we're left with little more than boundaries, limiting protests within so many feet of an event.

If that's the case, I'm inclined to agree with one of Volokh's commenters:

Since these are military funerals and presumably involve some sort of gun salute, couldn't they just use real bullets and lower their aim point a bit?


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