ACLU Defending Westboro Baptist Church

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Many argue that the ACLU is too liberal while a growing group are starting to complain that it is too libertarian. Whichever view you take, the Reverend Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church are the last people one would expect to be supported by that organization. Stop the ACLU reports that the ACLU is going to be defending the fag haters:

In Tennessee the Senate just passed a bill that requires a 500-foot buffer zone between a funeral, burial or funeral procession and its protesters. Those that come closer than 500 feet could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, punishable up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Other states as nearby as Kentucky and Missouri agree. Those states have already passed new laws limiting protests at funerals.

Of course the ACLU are claiming the bill is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been lobbying against Black’s bill, saying the measure violates Americans’ First Amendment rights.

“Even speech that is cruel, distasteful and upsetting is protected by the First Amendment,” said Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of ACLU of Tennessee. “The best answer to this speech is not speech restrictions, but more speech.”

Weinberg said the bill, while “well intentioned,” could have unintended side effects that would make it illegal, for example, to protest within 500 feet of the funeral of a person who died while in police custody.

As much as I despise Phelps and his message, the ACLU is absolutely correct to champion free speech rights.

12 Comments
  1. Damn … whatever happened to just charging people with “disrupting the peace” ? Phelps and Gang could easily qualify for that by attempting to disrupt the somber mood appropriate to a funerary procession.

    There’s no need for this BS about speech restriction. Basically; let them protest all they want as long as they don’t get in anybody’s way.

    After all; you can *say* whatever you want. You just can’t force anybody to listen.

  2. Maybe they’re not too libertarian, perhaps precisely libertarian enough… I think many conservatives suspect they defend people like this every now and then so they don’t appear to be too liberal.

  3. The libertarian solution to the problem of the poor grieving relatives being hounded is that this practice will end fairly soon due to public sympathy for the pleas of widows and orphans to be left alone.

    The 500 foot distance is simply trying to quantify a matter of taste. It doesn’t really solve anything by itself.

  4. I agree with Chris. I’ll add that bringing firepower to prevent such trespass is reasonable, too.

  5. It also filed an amicus brief defending Tucker Max against a suit which leveled prior restraint on him for defaming a former Miss Vermont. They do some crazy things, but it’s all on principle.

  6. All I know is, the Phelps freak parade threatened to come to MY town, but the presence of the Rolling Thunder crew seemed to help as a deterrent. I like those guys.

  7. Keith Rodgers

    It is the Patriot Guard Riders, not Rolling Thunder, a separate but honorable group of veterans, who attend funerals of fallen soldiers.

    PGR members do not attend any funeral or memorial service unless they are invited by the family. They do not want to be anywhere they are not welcome. One does not have to be a veteran or a motorcycle rider to join, only have a desire to support families of fallen soldiers.

    I know. I am a PGR and believe we have just as much right to exercise our freedom of assembly and speech as any other person or group. There are those that would disagree we have the same rights. Guess who they are, the run of the mill west coast antiwar leftists with ties to the old hippie movement from the 1960’s. It may be because many but not all of us are Vietnam combat vets who are now exercising our rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

    This group of patriotic American citizens is experiencing phenomenal growth. I wonder why?

  8. The ACLU has done excellent work in years past. That being said, somewhere along the way of life, they lost their way. The greatest thing they’ve had going for them is Americans apathy. We’re waking up now and fighting back.

  9. It’s a sad day for America when the ilk of the so-called “Reverend” Phelps are able to be represented by the ACLU or anybody, for that matter. Isn’t there any limit as to what the ACLU is willing to stomach before it says, “No, we draw a line?”

    If we have laws against disturbing church services, why is it so hard to have laws protecting the dignity of funerals, especially when the issue of homosexuality has no bearing on the grieving parties involved?

    It’s views such as those taken by Stephen Gordon that make it so easy for me to find libertarianism repulsive. It’s a creed for individualistic selfishness.
    The libertarians want it to have it all.

    And to think they can’t defend the passing of laws meant to provide grieving family members peace and respect; especially when the deceased is one who gave his or her ultimate sacrifice to preserve our liberties.

    There’s got to be a line one cannot cross. You can’t have everything.