A fine line between legal and illegal

Emily Brown, Copy Editor

“You’re going to hell.”

“God hates fags.”

“Thank God for dead soldiers.”

These are a few of the anti-homosexuality signs the members of the Westboro Baptist Church carry around during their protests.

Fred Phelps, a pastor from Topeka, is the leader of this homophobic campaign.

He demonstrates at military funerals because the military protects a country that allows homosexuality.

He thinks it is his sacred duty to warn people of God’s wrath and anger against homosexuals.

On March 10, 2006, Westboro Baptist Church members picketed the funeral of Matthew Snyder, who died in combat in Iraq.

The Snyder family sued Phelps for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Now it is up to the Supreme Court to decide whether he has the right to speak his discriminatory mind.

Since the protests are non-violent, Phelps believes he has the right to picket wherever he wants.

Even if he is protesting the very men that died to give him those rights.

Unfortunately, it is my sacred duty as a journalist to acknowledge that he is partly right.

The First Amendment of the Constitution states that Congress has no right to prohibit freedom of speech or the right of the people to peaceably assemble.

No matter how disgusting Phelps’ message may be, it is legal for him to speak it.

His words go against everything I personally believe.

I am not willing to sacrifice my freedom of speech because of his ignorance.

However, the issue remains.

Where will the government draw the line?

What will they be restricting next time?

Will my article be too radical?

Will I be sued for harassment or defamation for standing up for what I believe in?

I would rather have the right to fight against Phelps’ twisted doctrine than be refused the right of speaking at all.

Look at the Patriot Guard Riders.

This motorcycle club formed to shield mourners with its motorcade from the presence of the Westboro Baptist Church protesters.

They hold up American flags and drown out the protesters’ chants by singing patriotic songs or revving their motorcycles.

They are supporting their country and protesting Phelps’ ideals in one giant statement.

Obviously, we don’t need to restrict the rights this country was built upon to take away his power.

There are many ways to fight against Phelps’ message.

We should counter-protest the heck out of them. The perfect, constitutional solution.

Westboro Baptist Church isn’t the only institution that can hold up signs.

Shawnee Mission East High School elected an openly gay student as prom king in 2007.

Westboro Baptist Church members decided to picket in front of the school but they were met with an even larger counter-protest of SME students.

Let Phelps act the fool.

And I (and others) will continue speaking out against his foolishness, as long as I still have right to do so.