Thursday, June 01, 2006

Belief in free speech put to the test

Like most people, I have been disgusted by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, which has been organizing protests at soldier's funerals because they believe the deaths are God's way of punishing America for allowing the 'sodomites' to live among us.

However, I have to agree with Rick Martinez's column from the News & Observer opposing President Bush's signing of the Respect for Fallen Heroes Act, which prevents protests at military funerals. From Martinez:

"The women and men who put on the uniform each day have dedicated their service to defending and preserving freedom. The Respect for Fallen Heroes Act, signed on Memorial Day, restricts the fundamental element of that very freedom: free speech. By weakening that cornerstone right we cheapen the lives we seek to honor."

To protect free speech, we have to protect speech we vehemently disagree with. The God Hate Fags folks certainly fall into this category, but I have to support their right to speak out. Any other position would be hypocrisy.

The real heroes are the motorcyclists who have been using their 'voices' to counteract the protesters. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, the antidote to any speech is more speech, not less. Even if that speech is the roar of motorcycle engines.