In a recent landmark 8-1 SCOTUS ruling as reported by the New York Times, (with Justice Alito dissenting) the rights of WBC protests at military funerals were shockingly upheld. For a split second, I had to take a step back and re-evaluate our priorities in society and what it means to “practice free speech” as prescribed by our First Amendment rights. Appalled by this horrible, immoral and controversial group that spews hatred and twisted, religious cult-like propaganda at hate rallies, you have to wonder to what this country is coming. As I read the ruling, I saw that the SCOTUS was unfortunately appropriate in their interpretation of the law in ruling that these WBC protesters are protected by the First Amendment to spew their venom 1,000 feet away from a public event.
There is a fine line between freedom of speech and grave desecration. As I was researching this subject, I ran across a Yahoo! Answers post by a fellow web-surfer in response to the question whether or not it was okay to grave rob. His response was most appropriate, I thought: “Ever heard of the term ‘Rest in Peace’ — that means to be dead without any interruptions, and someone stealing your life’s belongings is definitely interrupting their eternal sleep.”
As an avid supporter of free speech, I know how vital the First Amendment is to our country and to the benefit or detriment of our way of life. But there comes a time when there are exceptions to any rule. The WBC case is one of those specific exceptions. One of my first thoughts was to research registered sex offender laws to determine how far away these individuals must live from a school or daycare center. In most instances, it was 1,000 feet. Wow! “Just 1,000 feet”, I asked myself. So I guess sex offenders have just as much right to live 1,000 feet away from a school as WBC protesters do to spew their hateful vitriol at a funeral site. That wasn’t enough, however. There had to be some way, somehow to prove this ruling wrong…despite my advocacy for free speech.
Then it hit me! Let’s first define “desecrate”. Among the many definitions, the first result comes from Princeton.edu. It states that the word ‘desecrate’ means to: “violate the sacred character of a place or language; “desecrate a cemetery”; “violate the sanctity of the church”; “profane the name of God.” Whoa…I was onto something. Then I did a little more digging. It appears that some US States have enacted laws that make “desecration” of veteran burial sites a criminal offense. In fact, NY recently passed legislation that makes cemetery desecration of a veteran a felony. Deceased veterans and their living family members have the right to attend a peaceful, private funeral service. If en route to that funeral service, they are heckled by WBC protesters, who are openly and publicly “desecrating” not only veteran service members, but also “profaning the name of God”!
By now I’m getting excited! I’m thinking certainly that veterans and family members of deceased veterans must also have some unalienable rights. For starters, they do have the right to privacy. Can you imagine if folks started protesting 1,000 feet from hospitals with signs on how people shouldn’t be birthing children? Or perhaps, we could all protest 1,000 feet away from WBC member funerals with hateful vitriol? Of course we would not do that. We are cut from a different cloth. We would never violate another’s privacy, or right to mourn in peace. We would never desecrate God, a funeral, or our fallen war heroes because we simply “hate” people. Though legislation is slow in coming to protect those who protect us from enemies both foreign and domestic, as American citizens we do have the right to be protected against harassment. Yes, there’s that snazzy little law that can and should be enforced by our criminal and civil legislatures, as well as our Supreme Justices. According to the definition of harassment, “The law now reflects the understanding that, regardless of the motivation for the conduct, it disrupts the victim’s life and may threaten the victim’s safety.” ß This in itself is welcome news and one that I hope will guide our justice system to uphold the law, even when it calls for exceptions to the law within the confines of the legal system.
“Justice should indeed be blind, but it should never be so blind that it turns a blind eye to injustice.” – CarolAnnB
When Supreme Justice is no longer Just
OPED by CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Social Media Sorceress on current events, social media, philosophy and more!
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