US Hate Church Tests Limits of Free Speech

Atheistextremist
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US Hate Church Tests Limits of Free Speech

 

By Washington correspondent Kim Landers, staff

Updated 1 hour 49 minutes ago

Westboro Baptist Church supporters

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrate outside the US Supreme Court. (AFP: Chip Somodevilla )

The United States Supreme Court is testing whether the right to free speech protects a religious group that pickets the funerals of American soldiers.

The Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas says US military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are punishment for the immorality of Americans, including tolerance of homosexuality.

Members of the church hammer home their message by protesting at the funerals of American soldiers, carrying banners with slogans like "Thank God for dead soldiers", "God hates your feelings", "Fags doom nations" and "Pray for more dead kids".

Members of the church carried the same signs as they protested on the steps of the US Supreme Court overnight.

Inside, the court was hearing an emotional case between the father of a US Marine killed in Iraq and the church, whose members picketed his son's funeral four years ago.

Margie Phelps, the daughter of church leader Reverend Fred Phelps, said that even if some people find the church's actions distasteful and repugnant, freedom of expression is protected under the First Amendment.

"There's no line that can be drawn here without shutting down a lot of speech," she told the court.

But Albert Snyder said the church took away his one chance to bury his son Matthew in peace.

"Speaking as a father, the Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church conduct was so extreme it went beyond all possible bounds of basic human decency ... it can be regarded as utterly intolerable in a civilised nation," he said.

"I hope that they realise that isn't just a case about speech," Albert Snyder's lawyer Sean Summers said.

"It's about harassment, targeted harassment at a private person's funeral."

Ms Phelps argues that America's war deaths are divine punishment because the US tolerates homosexuals.

"God is cursing America - it is a curse for your young men and women to be coming home in body bags," she said.

"If you want that to stop, stop sinning."

Albert Snyder sued the church for causing mental suffering and was awarded $11 million by a jury, a figure that a judge then reduced to $5 million.

An appeals court then scrapped the compensation altogether, ruling that while the church's actions were "distasteful and repugnant," they fell under First Amendment protections.

During the legal argument, Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the question was whether the First Amendment must tolerate "exploiting this bereaved family".

The court's decision will not be announced for months.

Whatever the outcome, the church members are vowing not to change their ways.

 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/10/07/3031715.htm?section=justin

 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


cj
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Observer wrote:How would you

Observer wrote:

How would you outlaw them? Would you arrest people who tried to worship a god (or gods) who believed in stuff like hell? What would you suggest the government do if they did choose to outlaw the freedom of worship?

 

Why do they have to have freedom of worship everywhere?  Why is it okay for some bad teeth street preacher to yell bad breath in my face about how I am a whore and I'm going to hell?  Why is it okay for these people to protest at military funerals - and, incidentally, post on their website that the parents of the departed service person are bad parents because their son was in the military? 

I'm all for your right to your opinion or belief.  But I am also all for the right for me to say - not in my face, at anyone's funeral, at abortion clinics, etc.  Let's have an open  air forum area where people can yell about any old shit they please and the rest of us who don't want to listen or have badly written pamphlets thrust at us can take a detour around the block and avoid them.  As it is now, you have no freedom to get these nut jobs out of your face.  Why is enforced common courtesy such a bad thing?

I don't have to put up with it when I am on the phone, at home, at work.  Why should I have to put up with it on a public street?  Free to worship in your church or your home.  None of my business.  I don't see any need for them to be free to be obnoxious elsewhere.

And who sets the standard?  The one being yelled at, of course.  If you don't like people yelling in your face about any subject, you should be able to politely request they go elsewhere - and the authorities should be able to politely enforce your request.  This is not restricting their freedom to be jerks.  Believing that god/s/dess is punishing the US for homosexuality, blah, blah is their right.  I don't see how it can be a "right" to wave signs around and yell about it on public thoroughfares.  That isn't speech, it is harassment.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


Atheistextremist
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The bible, the koran and all the rest

Observer wrote:

How would you outlaw them? Would you arrest people who tried to worship a god (or gods) who believed in stuff like hell? What would you suggest the government do if they did choose to outlaw the freedom of worship?

 

should be subject to ordinary laws of censorship. Think this sounds extreme? Would you as a parent cheerfully allow your kid to study a text at school that was based on vilification, a dogma peddled by threat? Imagine if kids in a biology class were taught that if they did not believe in abiogenesis or evolution they would be burned in hell. How would you, as a rationalist, respond to that? No one would tolerate it for a second.

Given threat-based teaching is immoral, we ought to ask ourselves if religious abuse is something we have to tolerate and our kids have to tolerate. Films, books, all these things are subject to censorship - and a classification system. Why not religious books? Kids should not be allowed to be taught bible or Koran under the age of 15.

Sure - I know. Outlawing freedom of worship is impossible. But why? Setting freedom of worship up on a cultural pedestal is a fossil left over from a time of European religious persecution 500 years ago. It certainly never applied in reverse to the religions worshiped in the cultures European settlers destroyed. And some one will have to explain to me in greater detail why religions deserve tolerance and understanding when that is the thing they deny us.

I know some one will tell me that freedom of worship is what protects my right not to worship. But is this expediency morally upright or a cop-out? The thing comes down to this point. Is forcing children to accept unprovable things using threats right or is it always wrong?

 

 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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Atheistextremist

Atheistextremist wrote:

Observer wrote:

How would you outlaw them? Would you arrest people who tried to worship a god (or gods) who believed in stuff like hell? What would you suggest the government do if they did choose to outlaw the freedom of worship?

 

should be subject to ordinary laws of censorship. Think this sounds extreme? Would you as a parent cheerfully allow your kid to study a text at school that was based on vilification, a dogma peddled by threat? Imagine if kids in a biology class were taught that if they did not believe in abiogenesis or evolution they would be burned in hell. How would you, as a rationalist, respond to that? No one would tolerate it for a second.

Given threat-based teaching is immoral, we ought to ask ourselves if religious abuse is something we have to tolerate and our kids have to tolerate. Films, books, all these things are subject to censorship - and a classification system. Why not religious books? Kids should not be allowed to be taught bible or Koran under the age of 15.

Sure - I know. Outlawing freedom of worship is impossible. But why? Setting freedom of worship up on a cultural pedestal is a fossil left over from a time of European religious persecution 500 years ago. It certainly never applied in reverse to the religions worshiped in the cultures European settlers destroyed. And some one will have to explain to me in greater detail why religions deserve tolerance and understanding when that is the thing they deny us.

I know some one will tell me that freedom of worship is what protects my right not to worship. But is this expediency morally upright or a cop-out? The thing comes down to this point. Is forcing children to accept unprovable things using threats right or is it always wrong?

 

 

 

 

As somebody who went through small town public school(school had 100 students k-12), surprisingly, religion was almost never there.  I know this is an abberation.  Even given that though, I know I would homeschool any children that I have.  I can't in good conscious put a child through the crap that I went through, and then if there is fear of hell and damnation on top of it, well, I have to agree that it is child abuse.  No way around that fact. I whole heartedly agree that taking things related to religion out of school is something that should be done.  I personally wish that more schools adopted the stance on religion that mine had, that if a parent wants to teach that, it is there job, not the schools.  Education shouldn't be there to scare children, but to teach them the realities of the world and how to solve the problems that arise.

Freedom to worship, in a way, is a cop-out.  It is a way for some people to step out of the way and let others hang onto a belief system that should be completely gone in this age of science and knowledge.  The big worry I have with expelling freedom of worship would be the ramifications.  Do you think that the christians, muslims, jews, etc., could go along peacefully with this and drop religion outside of their homes?  We know that there are some groups of muslims who will fight to the death for their barbarism, who is not to say that the other groups won't be as brutal?

I would love to live in a world with no religion, but I can't predict what would happen tomorrow if we took away worship today.  The world right now is just in horrible shape thanks to dogma that seperates us and makes someone of a different religion a non-human.

I don't have any real answer when it comes to this. It is abuse to scare children with eternal torment, but what could be done that would have a positive outcome?  I would be happy tomorrow if Obama signed a bill eradicating religion in America.  The problem I always come back to is, then what happens?  Our freedoms here attempt to balance things out.  It is a cop-out, but I know that here, I can express my disbelief so long as they can express their belief. I may be in a minority, but the majority can't shut me up.

In the end, I still don't have any real answers.

 

 

 

All that I know, there was no god for me - Fear Factory - Resurrection
http://theoracleofjames.wordpress.com/


Brian37
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Observer wrote:How would you

Observer wrote:

How would you outlaw them? Would you arrest people who tried to worship a god (or gods) who believed in stuff like hell? What would you suggest the government do if they did choose to outlaw the freedom of worship?

This is what my well intended politically correct friends don't get and plays into the fallacy that all liberals and atheists agree. We don't.

There is no such thing as a utopia. We as atheists fight against the utopia attitude of a god running a government, and the fundies fight the fear of a godless government where people like Hitler and Stalin rule. Which misses the point that UTOPIAS DON'T EXIST!

You can have gray areas, such as laws that allow worship, but stop when it comes to the welfare of children, FOR EXAMPLE, but pragmatism is lost in the utopia attempts like Iran has in it's theocracy which is just as bad as Stalin's utopia in worshiping the state.

The only thing we can agree on outlawing is anything that causes direct physical harm to each other. We cannot outlaw delusional thinking. We can uphold the concept of freedom of speech to counter delusional thinking. But we cannot force others we disagree with to only say nice things about us.

 

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37


Brian37
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Quote: I would be happy

Quote:
I would be happy tomorrow if Obama signed a bill eradicating religion in America.

I wouldn't. Force does not create converts, it fosters resentment.

Just because you are an atheist does not mean you'd be happy in China, for example. Skeptics like the ability to question everything, including the state. I doubt you'd like living in China considering their human rights abuses, even if they outlaw some superstitions. They have their own, fyi.

I want to see the end of religion as much as you. I think John Lennon's song Imagine, is nice, but a utopia none the less. The reality is that whatever we as atheists market, is not going to be any more welcome than marketing a theocracy by force.

The use of appeal is far more moral than force. "I'm not going to take it any more", no one said you had to. But don't play into the bullshit stereotypes theists already have of atheists.

Do you want believers to buy the bullshit stereotype that we would have them arrested and jailed or even exicuted for believing in a god? Far too many already believe that bullshit. Just because I think religion is bullshit and god is a bullshit concept, doesn''t mean force is pragmatic as a tool in getting what I want.

 I don't think becoming what we say we hate about the dictator god of the bible, is a good tactic.

The bottom line for me is that utopias are impractical for EITHER SIDE, no matter how much I find religion absurd. Neither side is going to get all of what they want unless they want to oppress the other.

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37