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US Supreme Court Decision on Westboro: The Latest in a Litany of Failures

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality and its protest activities, which include picketing funerals and desecrating the American flag. The church is widely described as a hate group and is monitored as such by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. It is headed by Fred Phelps and consists mostly of members of his large family; in 2007, it had 71 members. The church is headquartered in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Topeka about three miles west of the Kansas State Capitol at 3701 West 12th Street, Topeka, Kansas, United States. Its first public service was held on the afternoon of Sunday, November 27, 1955.

Westboro Baptist Church is an independent church located near Topeka Kansas. It is not recognized as a member or affiliated with any Baptist denomination or association. The “church” is recognized principally for extreme / radical actions taken to protest homosexuality. They picket and shout hate-filled slogans at the funerals of American servicemen and servicewomen in protest of recent decisions more accepting of homosexuality among the US Armed Forces. They desecrate the American flag. They are, for many of the rest of us who are self-professed Christians, a symbol of many things we despise. I am attaching an excerpt from Wikipedia at the conclusion of this article for those who are unaware of the recent Supreme Court battle engaged around Westboro’s protest of a military funeral in 2006. I’m also including a web link for readers who wish to know the rest of the sordid Westboro story.

But here is the current situation: The Supreme Court found in favor of Westboro Baptist Church, overturning a lower court ruling, siding with these malefactors against the family of the slain soldier. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the rest of the court in a decision that even the mainstream media reports as outrageous. He expressed sympathy for those who are targets of the Rev. Fred Phelps and his family members but said the First Amendment protects the church from having to pay damages to a grieving father whose son’s funeral was the site of their protest. Accordingly, the chief justice voided a multi-million-dollar tort verdict the Snyders had won when they sued the Phelpses for picketing their son’s funeral with signs like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”

The Bible is, of course, extremely clear about God’s position on homosexuality; God finds it abhorrent. It is true from the Old Testament to New Testament (Genesis 19, Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1). I have seen some ridiculous stretches of logic to try to disprove this (here is one example if you’d like to take a look for yourself. Here is a quote: “The fact is that Paul nowhere condemned or mentioned romantic love and sexual relations between people of the same sex who love each other.  Paul never commented on sexual orientation.  As in the rest of the Bible, Paul nowhere even hinted that Lesbians and Gay men can or should change their sexual orientation.?”  (It is often astonishing to me how far people will go to deny what is clear and consistent in scripture. This is a classic example.) However, even in the case of homosexuality, there is absolutely no biblical precedent for the behavior that Phelps and his minions at Westboro have undertaken. Jesus did not hold public protests. He did not launch verbal attacks on the innocent families of fallen soldiers, even when those soldiers served brutal regimes. The message of the Gospel is a message of compassion, reason, and conversion of nonbelievers so that the Holy Spirit can convict and change behavior from the inside.

The only Supreme Court justice showing a modicum of insight and propriety in this case was Justice Alito. Alito wrote the dissenting opinion. It was brilliant, and absolutely correct. Alito opened by saying: “Petitioner Albert Snyder is not a public figure. He is simply a parent whose son, Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq. Mr. Snyder wanted what is surely the right of any parent who experiences such an incalculable loss: to bury his son in peace. But respondents, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, deprived him of that elementary right. They first issued a press release and thus turned Matthew’s funeral into a tumultuous media event. They then appeared at the church, approached as closely as they could without trespassing, and launched a malevolent verbal attack on Matthew and his family at a time of acute emotional vulnerability. As a result, Albert Snyder suffered severe and lasting emotional injury. The Court now holds that the First Amendment protected respondents’ right to brutalize Mr. Snyder. I cannot agree.”

It was reported that he concluded with: “Respondents’ outrageous conduct caused petitioner great injury, and the Court now compounds that injury by depriving petitioner of a judgment that acknowledges the wrong he suffered.”

Alito got it right. The increasingly liberal Supreme Court – with the exception of Alito – should be ashamed of itself. In case after case, the Supreme Court is enabling the far left to pull America further and further away from not only the letter of the law, but more importantly the spirit and intent of the founders who authored our Constitution. Beginning with Engel v. Vitale in 1962, careening onward through Roe v. Wade in 1973, and continuing with decisions such as Snyder v. Phelps in 2011, the court has flung our nation onto a slippery ideological slope, from which recovery is extremely unlikely.

Even more recently, the burning of a Quran in Florida by the Westboro pastor incited riots in Afghanistan, resulting in multiple deaths and inhibiting ISAF operations.  At some point “free speech” becomes “hate speech”, and these folks crossed that line long ago.

What do you think?

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