Legality does not guarantee morality


University students may remember that fateful day in the fall of 2009 when the absolutely deplorable Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) came to protest at the Hillel House. Fortunately, that day ended on a surprisingly positive note, as hundreds of students took the streets to support Hillel in the face of the Westboro Baptist Church's vitriolic, unfounded rhetoric. Of course, the University has not been the only community affected by this rogue "church" — it seems improper to even use that term in relation to people as despicable as Pastor Fred Phelps' brood. Communities all over the United States have been subjected to the group's hateful tactics, and, unfortunately, this is going to continue for the foreseeable future. The Supreme Court ruled yesterday in an 8-1 decision that the Westboro Baptists' activities are well within their First Amendment rights. This is one of the prices we pay for our various freedoms in America — even the absolute worst folks are allowed to speak their minds.

We are a little surprised that the Supreme Court justices did not rule that the Westboro Baptist Church's protests were obvious examples of hate speech, but we suppose it is because the group is, in fact, a church. As such, these protests are expressions of their religious tenets, and therefore protected. It is a sort of loophole that allowed the WBC to win the day, then. But this is America — land of the free, and freedom often gets complicated. As much as the WBC sickens us, we have to at least be thankful that the Supreme Court took all the facts into consideration when making their decision. The only thing worse than allowing the WBC to continue on unhindered is to compromise the basic principles of freedom upon which our nation is founded.

The nation has to remember, though, that just because the WBC is legal, that does not mean they are good or right. We recognize that we are probably preaching to the choir — so to speak — in condemning the church's actions, but we feel it necessary to reaffirm our feelings on the WBC in light of the Supreme Court's judgment. It is the duty of every American, then, to exercise their freedom of speech whenever the WBC comes to their town and mount a counter protest. There is one benefit to having a group like the WBC terrorize the country — it spurs the rest of us to come together and fight for what we believe in. Unity is hardly ever a bad thing.


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