Freedom Of Speech (2/10)

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Amer·i·ca·na
Pronunciation: \ə-ˌmer-ə-ˈkä-nə, -ˌmər-, -ˌme-rə-, -ˈka-nə\
Function: noun plural
Date: 1841

1: Materials concerning or characteristic of America, its civilization, or its culture ; broadly : things typical of America
2: American culture

In this series, I’d like to explore various aspect of life in North America. Each topic will be illustrated by a black and white picture.

Cold News On A Snowy Day

Cold News On A Snowy Day

Freedom of speech is the right to speak freely without censorship or limitations. In the U.S.A, The First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits — among other things — the Congress from making laws that infringe the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press.

Free speech is a major part of the foundation of American society and many stand up to protect the core American values. But the First Amendment also brings up questions: are there limits to the freedom of speech? If a group instill racism, sexism, and homophobia or other questionable views, should it still be protected under the First Amendment?

I first heard of the Westboro Baptist Church after this summer’s bizarre murder in a Greyhound bus in Canada. The Globe and Mail reported at the time that the Church members, from Topeka Kansas, were going to picket the funerals of the kid who was murdered, because he was, I quote, “a fag”.

Obviously, I was curious and researched this church a bit. Turned out they are a bunch of lunatics who condemn: “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT), Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews, as well as populations supporting the aforementioned groups, including Swedes, Canadians, Irish, British, and Americans“. They have catchy placards proclaiming “God hates fags”, “Thanks for 9/11″, “Thanks for Katrina” or “God hates America”. And they specialized in picketing funerals of all these they think are “fags” (pretty much all of us).

Fortunately, they have been banned from entering Canada for hate speech. In the U.S.A, they are entitled to their views, but may not be protected by the First Amendment because their statements are extreme and outrageous. So far though, there isn’t much to do. A group was formed to shelter and protect the funerals of US soldiers (because of course, “God hates U.S Army soldiers“) from protesters from the WBC and some lawsuits were occasionally filled.

Some would love the Westboro Baptist Church to be sued for hate speeches, while some say (without supporting them) that groups like them may be the ultimate test for the First Amendment and free speech.

I tend to believe John Stuart Mill’s harm principle, which places the following limitation on free expression: “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

11 Comments

  1. I heard that news a while ago, which angers me because these people are promoting hate, not love. I’m sure God doesn’t want them to hate on everybody and they’re so self-righteous. Who gives them the right to disrepect dead soldiers and muder victims? They don’t make any sense at all. I was so glad that they were not allowed to enter Canada. These people need to be lock up for good.

  2. I do believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and everyone has the right to state their own opinion. It would be great if people exercised that right in a responsible manner. Unfortunately, not not every right comes with a user’s manual and some people just vomit words without regard to the effect their words create. But, all in all, I do believe in freedom of expression.

  3. This is sick, ain’t it? And we’re pointing fingers at the Islamic radicals all this while. And they proclaim they are the true followers of Jesus when Jesus himself preached “Love thy neighbour”. Argh, what irony…

  4. I agree, disrupting the peace and hurting others is taking that “right” a little too far.

    What a sick group of people! Why don’t they ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” He certainly wouldn’t picket funerals, that’s for damn sure!

  5. Wow! That has really enlightend me…………Good to know certain things 🙂

    BTW that snow photo is too scary 🙁 I think I am still not prepared for it 😉

  6. The WBC is comprised of some uniquely obnoxious folks. A lot of them seem to be related somehow. I have a good friend who grew up in Topeka and his mother and a lot of family still live up there. They are catholic and he tells me that the WBC has a favorite spot across the street from the catholic church where they harrass them weekly. Apparantly God hates Catholics too.

  7. Salut Zhu :D!

    “Freedom of speech is the right to speak freely without censorship or limitations.” – Amen to that! I abhor censorship in any shape and size.

    “If a group instill racism, sexism, and homophobia or other questionable views, should it still be protected under the First Amendment?” – well, as you know, I am European…but this question could easily be applied to this side. In the Portuguese case, the 37th article of our Constitution defends Freedom of Speech and of the press; so if this question were asked to me I would have to say that yes, that group has the right to speak their mind, to defend their ideals (even if utterly stupid) – since telling them that they should shut up just because we don’t agree with them, or find their non-intellectual productions an abomination, would be the same as censoring them (meaning that we were being exactly the same as the fascists and communists in Europe [some 30 years ago & in some cases 18 years ago] and Latin America – not to mention some other countries in Asia).
    However, laws should be created to nail people who insist on encouraging hate crimes – speak, yes…but if so much your group is linked to someone who kicked or beat up a gay person, a black (or other non-caucasian race) person; humiliated a woman or man (just because of their gender) and other type of crimes targeting other ethnic or religious group…then you and your associates should go to jail (even if they didn’t commit the crime themselves: tu comprends?). This is called, being guilty by association.

    Oh yes…Westboro Baptist Church…I watched a documentary on them: they are a bunch of ignorants (even though they went/go to college they remained/remain ignorant)! I have never heard so much dung coming out of a person’s mouth the way I heard those guys talking! But at least they don’t kill anybody…but once they start doing it, or encouraging it: go to jail!
    Pitiful people…

    Fantastic article; I can’t wait to read more about this series :D!

    Cheers

  8. First of all, I’d like to use my wonderful free speech to say that the WBC is a bunch of crazy lunatics! While I support their freedom to express their opinions, I believe that what they are doing is a form of harassment, not expression. Protesting a funeral should be absolutely out of bounds. It is psychologically harmful for the people who are mourning the death of someone that obviously meant a lot to them. Not to mention completely disrespectful to the dead.

    If they want to protest on the streets, that’s fine with me. Their “God” can hate all the fags he wants and they can tell people that. But the second it turns to targeting specific individuals it becomes hate speech and harassment which should not be tolerated.

    I’d also like to tell these people to actually read the book they are supposed to follow. Jesus preaches love and tolerance, not ignorance and hate. There are far more passages in the Bible telling it’s followers to love their fellow man than there is about homosexuality being wrong. To each his own though.

    And a note to the blogger: I’m really glad I came across your blog on Bloggeries. It’s a really good read. You have something to say, unlike most bloggers who I feel are just looking for a fan-base. Keep up the good work! ^_^

  9. @Bluefish – I’m really really glad Canada is banning them. Makes me feel good actually.

    @Agnes – I support freedom of expression as well, but as a European, I was surprised to see some sides of it in action here. Racists etc. groups are usually banned in Europe for hate speech, despite the freedom of speech as well.

    @kyh – Oh, I can name extremists and nut cases from all backgrounds and all religions, sadly.

    @Scarlet – They are a scary bunch actually.

    @Annie – Just repeat after me: snow is fun, snow is fun, snow is… 😆

    @SilverNeurotic – Well, we do have our own crazy people in Canada too.

    @Tulsa Gentleman – Yes, this “Church” is definitely something. I didn’t know them before this incident, but they are quite famous it seems.

    @Khengsiong – I know, it’s a thin line…

    @Max Coutinho – I find that Europe has a different take on freedom of expression. Like many groups are banned for hate speech in France, and some laws (i.e abortion) are not as challenged in Europe. And this “church”… I see the documentary you are talking about.

    @xPirate – Thanks for visiting! Oh, this church doesn’t seem to be supported much… good thing I guess. Still, they are a nuisance and a shame to freedom of speech.

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