What are my rights?

Yesterday, that “church” (and I use that term only because that is what they call themselves) everyone’s been reading about in the newspaper and seen doing horrible, disrespectful things at soldiers’ funerals protested outside a nearby high school.  Some of my friends were able to attend a counter protest.  Many years ago, my college staged “The Laramie Project” and these hateful “church” members showed up.  I recall standing on the Mary Washington side of College Ave. near Westmoreland Hall holding a candle without anything to guard my hand from dripping wax and just crying out to God.  They didn’t have as much press back then, and there weren’t as many counter-protesters as there were yesterday.  I would have liked to have gone, but in some ways, I am also glad I did not.  My friend Scott wrote an article about it you can read if you’d like.

The problem is that there are so many counter-protesters who are equally as filled with hate as that “church’s” members; only their messages are more culture-approved.

Unable to change the minds of these “church” members, people have turned to the courts to force them to disappear.  Personally, I’m glad the Supreme Court voted the way it did.  We love our rights when they work in our favor and allow us to maintain our comfort zone, but we don’t like it when those same rights allow someone else to do something that we aren’t comfortable with or we don’t agree with.  Look at elections, for example, or any vote for that matter.  When our candidate wins, we tout the democratic system, but when he or she loses, we blame it.  When we go down to the river to baptize people, we tout the first amendment and its protections, but when we see these hateful people, we seek to change the law.  When we watch Fox News, we’re glad there is freedom for the press, but when we watch MSNBC, we want them sanctioned (wait, I think that goes the other way around).  I think it is narrow-minded.  If we change their rights, we’re changing our own, too, and that, I think, is a slippery slope.

I had a great debate about this a few months ago where someone was upset with the government over the establishment of a particular law after public vote, and I was arguing that they can’t be mad at the government.  If the vote had gone the other way, they would have been way happy.  Be upset with the marketing behind your cause or the voters, but for once, the government I don’t think is at fault.

The Supreme Court said they chose (in a vote of 8 to 1) “to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”  What would happen if we did have a precedent that allowed the government to dictate what could be said or displayed during a public demonstration?  What would the civil rights movement have looked like?  There were plenty of people offended by the statements and motivations of people we consider heroes.  What would happen to the Pro-Life rallies?  What about Tea Party rallies?

I think it is important to note that the Supreme Court’s decision was essentially bipartisan.  Four Democrat nominees and four Republican nominees ruled in favor of the deplorable “church” while Republican nominee Alito dissented.

I think I would prefer the government leave my freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances alone.  Seriously, stay across the room from it.  The Patriot Act is scary enough.  This may mean that I am sometimes offended or that sometimes I even have to endure “emotional terrorism” but as the bumper stickers say, “Freedom isn’t free.”

I’ll be honest with you.  While my feelings regarding this are strong, I am far from free of internal conflict.  The words emblazoned on the signs we are all familiar with thanks to the news media make me want to vomit.  My heart breaks for the people directly in these crazy peoples’ path.  My prayers go out to them, that they would find strength and peace and see the evil and hate that confronts them.  My prayers go out to the members of that “church” too, that they would be brought to a place of brokenness and see that the god they go on about cannot be the God of the universe.  See Scott’s blog for more on that.

Finally and most importantly, I feel it is of critical importance that I assure you that in absolutely no way do I support that so-called “church.”  You’ll note their name has been eliminated from this article.  When I read Jesus’ words, I see Him say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” and, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  What were those greatest commandments again?  Something about love?

A more articulate writer said this.


2 thoughts on “What are my rights?

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