Point of View: Protection of radical group highlights America’s commitment to true freedom

By Molly Packer

When I think of the rights that are unique to American citizens, one of the first things that comes to my mind is the right to free speech. Since the birth of the United States, citizens have been able to share their thoughts without restriction from the government, excepting of course the Sedition Act put into effect in 1918 that was quickly shot down in 1920 after the end of World War I.

Free speech is one of those unalienable rights for citizens of the United States, but sometimes the ability to say whatever we want does more harm than good. In Topeka, Kan., Westboro Baptist Church is famous for its picketing congregants who protest against gays outside military funerals.

Westboro Baptist believes that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishments from God as a consequence of American’s acceptance of homosexuality.

While military families mourn the untimely loss of their loved ones, church members stand across the street holding signs that say “Pray for More Dead Soldiers” and “USA = Fag Nation.”

Situations like these are so ironic because citizens have the ability to protest only because soldiers go out and defend American rights in wars like the ones we are in right now. Most American citizens are against the audacity of the Westboro Baptist Church and would readily lessen the rights of these congregants to protest outside of military funerals.

But if the Westboro churchgoers could not picket outside of funerals, what kind of rights would that take away from other citizens?

The tough truth of the matter is that free speech is a right to all American citizens, no matter how annoying or politically incorrect they choose to be.

Albert Snyder, a father of a deceased Marine, sued Westboro Baptist Church after they protested outside his 20-year-old son’s funeral.

When the case went to the Supreme Court, the church’s free speech was protected with a vote of 8-1.

My question is how far is too far when it comes to free speech? It would be easy for me to say the government should not allow anyone to dishonor in any fashion the soldiers that fight to protect us.

It seems to me to be inappropriate to state thoughts and ideas in a time and place as sensitive as a funeral.

Is there any realistic way the government could regulate what free speech is and is not?

Practically, it would be a waste of time for the government to rule against certain forms of speech and condone others.

If rights to any form of free speech were taken away, whether it be protesting homosexuality outside a funeral or the publishing of The Baylor Lariat, the basic ideas that set America apart from any other nation in the world would be tarnished.

So even though I believe it is completely uncalled for and grossly unpatriotic, I think that the Westboro Baptist Church protesters have the right to protest at military funerals.

Molly Packer is a freshman journalism major from Cincinnati and a reporter for the Lariat.