Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is well known for its protest activities and the extreme position against homosexuality. Some of these activities include American flag desecration and picketing American servicemen’s funerals. Most individuals regard the church as a hate group. Due to this, the church is closely monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Centre and the Anti-Defamation League. Highlighted herein are the reasons why the church should not be allowed to continue with its disruptions and protests, especially disruption of assemblies like military funerals. The church may have its constitutional right to free speech, but I believe it should not be allowed to continue with its actions. Hate speech is not a free speech. The activities of the church considered herein are funeral pickets, homosexuality (anti-gay) picketing, and other protests.
The church’s funeral pickets came into the limelight way back in 1998. Since then, the church continues to attract attention for its planned funeral pickets. Fred Phelps, the head of the church, has made continuous remarks that the church’s attitude towards the state of the war is that God is punishing America, an evil nation, for abandoning the moral imperatives (Oxley 2005). In 2006, the church picketed with banners displaying such messages as "God hates fags", "Thank God for dead soldiers", in the funeral of a U.S. Marine, Matthew Snyder who was killed in Iraq (Manuel 2010). In the funeral of Michael Jackson in 2009, the church greatly picketed. Church’s members went ahead and recorded the song “God Hates the World”, which was an adaptation of “We are the World”, a charity single of Michael Jackson (Xeni 2009). In 2010, a similar picketing was witnessed in the funeral of Ronnie James Dio. The latest pickets are those at the funeral of Steve Jobs in 2011 and Whitney Houston in 2012.
Westboro Baptist Church, according to most Americans, is a hate group, which is virtually against everything. The ideas and opinions of the church offend and disgust many people. The church has merely used its religious fanaticism to oppose American patriotism through protesting at the funerals of solders. Just like majority of the Americans, I don’t understand why the church should be allowed to provocatively and maliciously broadcast its extreme views, which in contrary, offends other people especially at the funerals of solders. Solders have fought for the American liberty and freedom and deserve to be laid to rest with utmost honor. A funeral, basically, is a grieving place for the loss of a loved one and the remembering of life. It is a place for extreme emotions in a person’s life and the wound from the loss cannot be healed, not even by time. Westboro Baptist Church, on the contrary, rants hatefully, claiming that the deceased shoulder deserved to die. This is extremely traumatizing and devastating, especially to the loved ones of the deceased. By inflicting emotional distress on the families of the militaries, WBC abuses the liberties and freedoms that the nation strives to protect. On this premise therefore, WBC is immoral, unethical, vile, and despicable hate group. Why would such a group be allowed to continue with its activities?
The challenge however is that, if the church is banned from such activities, especially picketing and the freedom of expression, America shall have clearly demonstrated to the world that some of its fundamental liberties have exceptions. But still, infringing others’ rights is unacceptable even if one is in the course of exercising his/her freedoms and liberties.
Hurting the feelings of other people, as practiced by WBC, is immoral. However, this does not tantamount to unconstitutionality. Some people therefore believe that this should not be a reason to stop the church from its activities. It may not be constitutional, but I believe that the same constitution gives room for common sense. Why would one continue to hurt others when he/she knows perfectly well the pains and wounds in these peoples’ hearts?
The truth is that we must defend the freedom of speech. This freedom however, must not lack moral and reasonable restrictions. Even as people exercise their freedom of speech, there are restrictions: one cannot advocate for a government to be overthrown even if the government has failed. Inflammatory language and hate speech are against the law. I therefore believe that hate speech is not a free speech and should not be allowed on any ground. The truth is that Westboro Baptist Church attacks grieving families. This is personal attack and not free speech! The church has the right to express its opinions; however, it is misguided and should not be allowed to continue. The church simply attacks the beliefs of others.
The Westboro Baptist Church considers other popular religious groups like Islam and Roman Catholic Church as the workshop of the devil. It believes that these churches are Satanic and preach lies. The church also believes that all the non-Christians groups, Protestant churches, and the non-Protestant churches that do not condemn homosexuality are simply preparing their members for Hell.
Westboro Baptist Church refers to the Catholic priests as Draculas and vampires. The church protested against Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 April during the pope’s visit in the New York City. The church also views president Obama as an antichrist who forms Unholy Trinity with Pope and Satan (Edwards 2011). With an interview with Fox News, Margie Phelps was very certain and asserted that Obama was absolutely heading to hell and he is the Beast in the Revelation.
WBC has not hesitated criticizing churches and religions. The Roman Catholic Church, it believes, is leading its members to hell. It accuses the Catholic Church and Catholicism, just as the Eastern Orthodoxy, of committing idolatry in worshiping the Saints, the Virgin Mary, and relics, among others. WBC also criticizes Protestantism, including Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Lutherans through its website PriestsRapeBoys.com. Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism, are not left out either.
The illustrations herein show that Westboro Baptist Church is virtually against everything. The ideas of the church disgusts and offends most people if not everybody. This justifies why Westboro Baptist Church is the most hated in America. The church spreads hatred in the American society and in fact globally, with its hate speeches. By offending almost everyone, the group cannot bring any positive change to the American society. The church’s protests are instead doing more harm than good and turning Americans further away from God. Such a group, I believe, should not be allowed to continue with its actions. It is true beyond any reasonable doubt that the Westboro Baptist Church hates America, even to an extent of running a site GodHatesAmerica.com. The group, however, is not compelled by anyone to continue staying in a country and a society they hate so much. They can move elsewhere, and indeed many Americans will be happy with this move. The most obvious reason for their continued stay in United States regardless of their action is that U.S. is perhaps the only country that can probably contain them and protect their hate speech under the freedom of speech.
The interpretation of the word of God should be considered with very open mind. Whether WBC interprets it correctly or otherwise, is not my concern. However, in this multicultural society, the views and opinions of all the players should be considered with openness and without any egocentric biases. No individual or institution has proved or has the knowledge of whether the other is right or wrong. A compromise should therefore be made. However, an institution that has clearly declared that others are wrong and continues spreading this hate speech should not be allowed to continue.
As well, Westboro Baptist Church is vastly recognized with its protest activities and the extreme position against homosexuality. Since 1991, it has actively taken part in anti-gay movement. The church has publicly shown hatred for those involved in homosexuality. Even though Christians believe that homosexuality is very offensive, developing individual hatred is more offensive. The level of hatred developed as a result of the church’s picketing against homosexuality remains offensive even to Christians (Tenety 2010).
Accordingly, WBC primarily causes heartache to the gay community. It is constitutionally right to practice homosexuality. Nevertheless, it is unconstitutional to offend those who enjoy their constitutional rights. Taking position against homosexuality distresses those practicing the act. This results in total public harassment (Valcourt 2011). To this extent, the church does not enjoy its freedom of speech but basically takes a ride on harassing the innocent. In essence, the freedom of speech and right to protest does not supersede the right to express our feelings in a dignified manner.
The anti gay picketing simply presents the WBC’s negative view on homosexuality. WBC operates vast websites like GodHatesAmerica.com, GodHatesFags.com and many more that categorically condemn homosexuality. Their hypothetical linkage of every world’s tragedy to homosexuality is simply a negative motive against homosexuals (Valcourt 2011). For instance, the group protested that the Sago Mine disaster was simply God’s revenge for the country’s homosexuality tolerance. Their perception of homosexuality as capital crime that should not be left unpunished is based on no solid grounds. Nevertheless, these perceptions are offensive and intimidating to the general society. It is high time that the church is not allowed to picket against the country’s tolerance of homosexuality as their arguments simply breed guilt besides being offensive to the society (Tenety 2010).
It is true the group has right to protest as well as freedom to speech. However, the protest needs not to be conducted in a manner that inflicts pain and emotional distress to certain groups and the society as whole. WBC continual usage of the right of speech at the expense of humiliating and causing distress to the society is not welcomed (Valcourt 2011). They need to understand that every individual has a right to privacy and breaching that right is like breaching the law. Basically, protesting against homosexuality deprives homosexuals their privacy which is abhorred. I believe that the church’s right to freedom of speech simply ends at the homosexuals’ right to engage in homosexuality.
Baptist churches are not built on discrimination. A good number of churches constantly preach anti-discrimination on issues concerning sex, marriage and race. Baptist churches are formed on tradition of zero tolerance to discrimination to its members (Tenety 2010). As opposed to WBC, the church has publicly continued to preach discrimination through its websites, GodHatesAmerica.com and GodHatesFags.com. Their protests against homosexuality are mere indications of how the church is discriminative, basically to homosexuals. Therefore, the church should not be allowed to protest against the country’s tolerance of homosexuality as its establishment is based on discrimination and not on any good motive (Valcourt 2011).
In conclusion, just like majority of the Americans, it is outrageous for the church to provocatively and maliciously broadcast its extreme views, which in contrary, offends other people especially at the funerals of soldiers and homosexuals. A funeral being a grieving place for loss of loved one as well as for remembering of life and a place for extreme emotions, it causes emotional distress to the bereaved if a church, WBC, rants hatefully with allegations that the deceased soldiers deserved to die. Besides, the church’s hypothetical linkage of every world’s tragedy to homosexuality is simply a negative motive against homosexuals which primarily causes heartache and distress to the gay community. This is absolutely offensive. On these premises, therefore, WBC is immoral, unethical, vile, and despicable hate group. Why would such a group be allowed to continue with its activities?
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