Article Comment 

Our View: Freedom of expression and the Westboro Baptists




Much of the community breathed a sigh of relief on Friday when the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas did not make an appearance at the funeral of Army Sgt. Christopher Bell. 


The funeral was on a schedule of memorials at which Westboro had planned demonstrations. 


In a press release, the church declared that "God hates America and is killing our troops in his path." 


The release closes with "Thank God for IEDs." 


Bell, 21, was one of four soldiers who died in a roadside explosion on June 4, in Afghanistan. And the Westboro outfit planned to use his funeral to further publicize their anti-gay, anti-military, anti-Semitic, anti-Obama, anti-priest messages. 


As deplorable as the thought is of someone yelling inflammatory messages at a funeral for a soldier killed in the service of our country, it is just as sobering to think this message could be stifled just because we may disagree with them. 


Most of those who commented on the story at were justifiably outraged at the thought of Westboro making a spectacle of such a somber and private ceremony. 


"I''m so glad that the ungodly protesters were not here," lorenza102053 wrote. "Yes, I said ungodly, because God is love and they very obviously are not. They are an example of what can go terribly wrong with a so called church and bring a blight on the name of God. Hateful people like this have done more to destroy the church than Satan could ever accomplish." 


Another poster, roscoe p. coltrain, went so far as to say, "These so called Christians should be spat upon, beaten, and run out of town on a rail if need be ..." 


It''s an outrage, no doubt, that a group claiming some divine authority would disrupt the solemnity of a funeral for a young soldier. The church''s actions are not only inhumane, they contradict the most basic tenets of Christianity. 


However, one of the rights American servicemen through the centuries have died to protect is freedom of speech. It has been a battle fought with protests, ink, litigation and blood. 


One online reader, zenreaper, put it this way: "There is no greater testament to the freedoms that our brave men and women fight and die for (than) the freedom of those idiots to say what they want where they want. As long as their rights are protected, we know our rights are safe and sound." 


Idiots and sages alike have the freedom to freely express themselves in this great country. 


That they can is one of the sources of our greatness.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment dregstudios commented at 6/21/2011 2:23:00 PM:

What are Fred Phelps and the WBC afraid of anyhow? Rainbows? Unicorns? A flaming pink queer apocalypse? I attempted to address this with a portrait of the good reverend on my artist's blog at Drop in and let me know what you think!


Article Comment jd commented at 6/21/2011 2:47:00 PM:

I understand that they have a right to express their view. However, there is also a responsibility to respect others' rights. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3 says "there is a time for every purpose under heaven"
Included in his list is "a time to speak and a time to keep silent". I believe if these were genuinely God-fearing people, they would, out of compassion for the bereaved, NOT use a funeral procession as a time to express their views. The website ( for these people is filled with nothing but hate. Since Jesus indicated that "love for one another" is one evidence we are His followers, I would question their authenticity as Christians.


Article Comment momof3 commented at 6/21/2011 3:10:00 PM:

This is really an issue of rights and common decency. Yes, freedom of speech is a very important American right and I wouldn't want to see it stifled, so I'm glad our legal system gives people the right to protest. However, protesting at a funeral is just rude and shows a seriously lack of human decency. We shouldn't try to take away these people's rights, but they sure need to be taught some manners.


Article Comment bulldog822 commented at 6/21/2011 3:40:00 PM:

I believe absolutely in the First Amendment. I believe in freedom of speech, even when I have to hear someone scream words with which I disagree. I believe in freedom of religion, even when it means that prayer is taken out of public schools. I believe in a person's right to burn a flag because I believe in my right to stand across from them and proudly wave mine. I believe in freedom and democracy and that these are the things America was founded upon. But even I have a hard time thinking it is ok for these people to intrude on a private moment, albeit standing in a public place, to scream words of hatred to a family in mourning. At a funeral of a soldier who died for their freedom. It's wrong and a lot more wrong than violating their freedom of speech. And while every human being should be able to leave this world in peace without the WBC or anyone else protesting their funeral, our fallen soldiers deserve their country to stand up for them just as they did for her.


Article Comment kj commented at 6/21/2011 7:19:00 PM:

Sadly, we disrespect the sacrifice of our soldiers on a daily basis when we allow government to continue to strip our constitutional freedoms from us. Our disrespect, while not as obscene as Westboro's, is more insidious because it wears a mask of civility.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 6/22/2011 6:18:00 AM:

I don't for one second believe our founding fathers meant for the freedom they sought to be perverted into what the sick people of that church practice. The fact that citizens, and even the courts, think this should be tolerated is clear evidence this country won't be here for long.

Nor do I believe for one second normal, logical thinking people believe that freedom of speech gives you the right to be whatever brand of jackass you chose to be in all settings including funerals. Yet another sign of what this country is turning into at the hand of the legal system, and politicians alike.

And Birney, you, your paper, and your family before you who ran this paper, are the very last people who should be opening their mouths about free speech after the decades of slanted press, shoddy journalism, and outright propaganda born of this rag.


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