Supreme Court in difficult position

Published 8:16 am Saturday, March 12, 2011

Good taste and human decency should preclude the Supreme Court of the United States from ever having to rule on certain issues. Today, however, both good taste and human decency are seemingly in short supply.

In a case that should never have needed to be heard, the United States Supreme Court last week voted 8-1, Justice Samuel Alito being the lone dissenter, to uphold on the basis of freedom of speech the right of individuals or groups to hold classless, tasteless and, in my opinion, Godless protests at the funerals of deceased service members.

The members of Westboro Baptist Church, in the name of God, appear at military funerals holding signs with slogans such as “thank God for dead soldiers” and ‘God is your enemy”, asserting that dead soldiers are America’s punishment for being tolerant of homosexuality.

Among the many, many facets of this issue that I find greatly disturbing, three stand out above all others.

First and foremost, as a Christian, I find it utterly detestable that anyone would invoke the name of God while wantonly and intentionally causing such pain and emotional distress to already suffering human beings who are mourning the loss of a loved one.

I believe that, not only are these misguided fools wrong in their assessment that God is passing judgment on America by taking the lives of service members, but He’s gonna want a few moments alone with these folks when it’s all said and done to give them a refresher course on who is to be passing judgment and who isn’t.

Trust me, Westboro, it ain’t you.

Secondly, the men and women who died in service to this country deserve to be memorialized with honor and dignity. Their families and loved ones deserve to be shown the respect, gratitude and compassion that their sacrifice deserves. The heroes at whose funerals these imbeciles are protesting died in part to protect the very right that they exploit for their own twisted means. The irony really requires no further commentary.

Third — and while the first two points are cut and dry for me, here’s the part I struggle with most — I think the Supreme Court got it right.

I make that point with absolutely no sense of joy or satisfaction whatsoever. Normally I rejoice at the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold my side of a constitutional debate. I can’t stand the fact, quite frankly, that the highest court in all the land sided with these people. I find the actions of Westboro Baptist “Church” and its members to be morally reprehensible and grotesque.

But I think they are legal. The constitution of the United States protects the free speech of all Americans, not just the speech of those we agree with. If the court were to have denied this particular group the right to assemble and voice their opinion, however distorted and misguided, by what definition would it then apply restrictions on other groups when controversies arise in the future? We would have created a slippery slope indeed.

TONY CLARK is the general manager and advertising director at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at