Can Freedom of Speech Ever be Justified to Cause Families Emotional Pain at a Time of Loss?

WestBoro Baptist church pickets the funerals of seven children who died tragically in a fire in their home. They are legally covered by the First Amendment to convey their message of hated.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrookLaa

I’m sure I was not the only one who was in utter abhorrence to the WestBoro Baptist Church’s idea of protest. The following flyer was distributed throughout the state of Pennsylvania:

The death of 7 CHILDREN who were from families of non-believers is grounds to picket!? That’s not even to say that the children wouldn’t have grown up to be fundamentalist, religious zealots with no sense of shame or conscience. Threatening phrases like “it is a very bad idea to threaten the apple of God’s eye,” truly sicken me. The fact that not only can it be justified that 7 innocent children lost their lives, but that it’s rejoiced at. It’s seen as God’s divine punishment and therefore is further proof to their warped minds as proof of his existence and his wrath.

Now, this is by no means the only message of hate they have. They also picket the funerals of veterans with slogans such as “Thank God for IEDs” (Improvised Explosive Device),  gays with such slogans as “Thank God for AIDs” and Athiests/Jews/Muslims/Other sects of Christianity with too many ridiculously inappropriate slogans to choose from. A related story to their picketing:

Of course, being America, it is all wrapped up nicely under “Freedom of Speech”. The blaming of a mother who ran out to get help for her children is not just a lesson in their opinion, but even a way of mocking her non-belief in a god of any sort. Only a truly despicable group could possibly come up with this. A gay person beaten to death by homophobes is “God’s will”. A synagogue catching fire and killing those inside is “divine punishment”. Hey, wasn’t Jesus a Jew?

As an Englishman, I don’t claim to be an expert of the American Bill of Rights, but is it just me that is thinking that using this level of force to tell someone what they believe is wrong…is unconstitutional (therefore illegal in the classic sense)? They’re using free speech to dampen OTHERS freedom to choose what they want to believe… As far as I’m concerned, and I am a huge advocate of freedom of speech and expression, when the freedom given to you is exploited into hurtful and forceful messages designed to provoke controversy and pain, that is when that right should no longer apply. You have proven yourself not worthy of the assumption that you have a moral compass and that you can’t handle this right (which is also a responsibility). I know many people reading this (particularly Americans which is who it is aimed at) will disagree with me on that point even if you hate the WestBoro message, which is fine. This is only my, personal opinion and I wouldn’t physically impose it in the same way WestBoro does.


The way WestBoro followers even believe that they are or even can do God’s work is hypocritical blasphemy. To attempt to thwart God’s will – the way God made people be they gay, veterans, non-believers… – is blasphemy in its purest of forms. If they are that way and there is a God, that is the way he made them, to attempt to change them is to call into question the entirety of the word of God, they believe they so adamantly follow.

I find it difficult to fully convey my feelings towards this bunch of bigoted, racist, homophobic, disrespectful, child-death-advocating, human rights-suppressing, warped fundamentalists. A family has their right to mourn the loss of a child and to do so in private. While WestBoro Baptist Church under its leader, Fred Phelps, may believe that they have a right to do what they do if they “keep a respectful distance away”, they are wrong. In no way is it respectful to even think of the death of a child as a means to shout their message of hate-fuelled  insanity to as many as will hear.

One cannot even be sure if they don’t realise what they are doing…I’m somewhat dubious as to whether they think “Oh this will be a good controversial one we can do” or if their minds actually tell them that’s what God wants. Either way, the incentive seems to be a vast amount of media coverage to further promote their words, to quote a great man, Mr Martin Luther King Jr, “…of interposition and nullification”.

There is no way that the freedom of speech could possibly extend to the infringements of a family’s right to mourn the loss of their child in private. No way. If that is in fact the case, I’d personally give up some of my freedoms to change it. Gladly.

To conclude, all I’ll say is may God strike me down now if I have to act like these people to get into heaven. I have morals. It is my belief – which I am perfectly allowed and entitled to state just as they seem to be able to do – that if there is a god, he doesn’t agree with WestBoro’s message. It is just a bastardised version of what the faith really stands for. Love, acceptance and peace.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:27-31

The last thing I want to say is a message to the family who lost seven of their children in that one, horrific event: may you find peace and love in your hearts for those you lost and may the warm memories you have of them console you through your grief. It may be something you can never recover from, but you must live on to share the memory of them and the joy you had together. May they sleep peacefully now.