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Church and State – The Supreme Court Decision – My Thoughts

(Disclaimer: This is a political viewpoint, a personal perspective. If you are not interested in an open discussion on the topic, then you may wish to skip this post)

I hear the discussion about the recent Supreme Court ruling (8-1) in favor of the constitution in the case of Snyder vs. Phelps. In case you are not familiar with it, the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funeral of a marine killed in the line of duty. The father of the marine brought the initial lawsuit.

Several people who profess Christ are upset at this decision. While I understand the concern, the bottom line is that we cannot legislate morals. While I agree that funerals should not be a place for others to picket, they have freedom of speech, just like we do, and they stayed within the guidelines of the state of Maryland at the time. Another thing that “hurt” the case was that the plaintiff did not see the signs until later that night while watching the news which means that there was no distress (except for the obvious loss of a son) during the funeral itself.

Let me ask some basic questions…

Is it acceptable to picket in front of abortion clinics expressing our views?

Is it acceptable to stand on the corner of a street (with proper permits) with signs proclaiming abortion is wrong with graphic images?

I would venture to say that most people reading this said yes to the previous questions. Now one more question… how would you feel if that was deemed illegal?

Just as the abortion protesters have to follow local regulations, so does the Westboro Baptist Church, and they did. They complied with all regulations set forth and did nothing to hinder or disturb the services being held for this marine. They stood on the street with their signs proclaiming their view.

If the Supreme Court would have ruled the other way, then the voices of Christians proclaiming the Gospel would have been silenced as well. That aspect is often overlooked.

I feel the need to emphasize that I am not condoning the actions of Westboro Baptist, but just as we seek protection under the constitution, they have the same protection that we do and if we limit them, then we limit ourselves.

The ruling was specific based on the actions of all involved and the laws at the time. Maryland has written and passed new regulations regarding protests at funerals and so at this time, those actions might be deemed illegal and a ruling may have gone the other way. So while people may be upset with the Supreme Court for the ruling, they were upholding the constitution, which is their job. If you want to be upset with someone, be upset with local regulations that allow this behavior, but then as laws are passed (like in Maryland), don’t complain when your ability to protest in a similar way is hindered, because it would have been what you sought during this time.

Something to think about…. I know someone who went to Ireland not to long ago. The people there said that the biggest irony in the U.S. is that we talk about how we have “freedom of speech” and yet we can’t say anything. we limit what we say to what is politically correct and not offending anyone. Having the freedom of speech means that others are going to say and do things that we disagree with or see as immoral. If we limit them, then we limit ourselves because the Gospel is offensive to those who do not believe because it goes against their lifestyle. Are we ready to give up the right to share the Gospel and tell others when they are engaged in a sinful lifestyle?

After you read the decision of the Supreme Court, I’d be interested in your thoughts on this topic.

Click here to read the Supreme Court’s ruling on this case

The Author

4 Comments

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  1. I agree completely. I hate what they are doing but some hate what I stand for and would silence me if possible. Thanks for blogging this with clarity.

    1. Bill, Thanks for your thoughts and kind words.

  2. I, sadly, wholeheartedly agree with your position that to keep our right to free speech, we must protect the freedom of others to use speech that offends us. I would add that we need to keep our offensiveness to a minimum. We must preach the danger of hell and Christ crucified, but we should do it in as inoffensive way as possible since humanity’s vileness and helplessness is enough of an offense.
    As to protesting abortion, PLEASE do not use graphic posters. My wife and I were on our way to a prenatal appointment (at a regular hospital) for our first child, we passed some protesters and my wife was traumatized by a picture of baby limbs in a trash can and is still bothered by the memory eleven years later.

    1. Jeremy, you make an excellent point with some of the graphic posters that are used to protest abortion. They are trying to “target” a small portion of the population, not realizing the negative impact they have on others who are experiencing their first pregnancy (as in your case), those who may have had abortions and now are recovering from that – dealing with their pain, and others.

      We need to show Christ in all we do.

      Thanks for your thoughts and sharing your experience.

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