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Friday, October 26, 2007

Free Speech - What Is Freedom? Part II

It is the premise of the founders of this incredible country that God is the originator of freedom and that one of the liberties, make that the primary liberty protected by the Bill of Rights is that we are free to speak about anything we wish. The courts have ruled, and rightly so, that certain speech is so negligent and is so contrary to the public good that is isn’t covered by this amendment. The most used example, and the one from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), is that you cannot yell fire in a crowded theater. (Actually, Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes said “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”)

Schenck was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). In Brandenburg, the court ruled that the government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action.

Here at Conservative Commentary (that means me) we have five guidelines for free speech.
1) We have the God given right to speak about what we wish.
2) All God given rights come with a duty to act responsibly.
3) Just because you have the right to say something, doesn’t mean that you should.
4) If you are in doubt as to whether you should say a particular thing, you probably shouldn’t.
5) My Alabama born and bred mother always said that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t
say anything at all. We should start teaching this in Kindergarten as part of "No Child
Left Behind".

My two teen daughters often discuss the gossip at school, and whether they were the gossipers or the gossipees. I admonish them regularly about my five guidelines of free speech. Others would do well to know them give them some credence. A pointed example of this is the story about the father of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder who is suing the Westboro Baptist Church for the circus that ensued when they protested at Snyder’s funeral. You know the Westboro Baptists – They are the primitive bunch of freaks that believe the deaths of Americans in Iraq is some manner of punishment for homosexuality. Because of that, they go about the country to funerals of our warriors and bascially make asses of themselves. Read THIS STORY about Snyder’s experience with this pathetic mob. They make all Christians, and Baptists in particular, look bad.

Their actions were disgusting, pathetic, intrusive, ignorant, assinine, and a thousand other adjectives, some of which I refuse to place into print. Because of some of their signs and protests, Snyder’s father is suing and is seeking public support via the internet to stop these idiots.

I sympathize with him. I truly do. I wish a bunch of my brothers would give each and every one of them a good Marine Corps vertical buttstoke with an M16. They should probably have the "Conservative Commentary First Amendment Guidelines" tatooed on their foreheads so when they look in the mirror everyday they are reminded of them.

That is my emotion and personal values talking. The Westboro Baptists, regardless of their ridiculous message and moronic communication of their message, are within their rights to say what they say. Freedom is being able to speak. We don’t need a First Amendment for popular speech, and we don’t need it for complimentary speech. It is needed for words and ideas that we don’t like, or that aren’t popular. We should be able, as mature adults, to hear messages that we don’t like and either engage in debate or simply refuse to comment. In either case, we shouldn’t stop the speech just because it is pathetic.

If we did that, where would the dems get the next Pete Stark?

Freedom means taking some lumps. It means hearing some things we don’t want to hear. It means allowing others the liberty that you will want for yourself one day.

14 Posts From Readers:

Mr. C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Obob said...

Like I tell my students to get quiet, "you may have the freedom of speech. But it does give you right to talk."

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

I have long be disgusted with the Westboro Baptists. To constantly desegrate the funeral of fallen soldiers and actually celebrate their death giving the idea that it God is doing the same....well put it this way I second your M16 example!

Obob said...

my brother was at a funeral for a fallen solidier from Iraq a few weeks ago. The Freedom Riders were present to deter the nutjobs

rockync said...

Robert, you have posted some extraordinarily insightful posts here on the freedoms we as Americans are assured by our constitution. Although you are right, in order to retain these rights we must "take our lumps" and put up with hearing speech we may not like. But, I believe these so called Godly parishioners are so over the top in so many ways. That they can pawn themselves off as being spiritual beings is disgusting. That they can inflict pain on top of pain for a family that has lost a beloved son is monsterous. I think the Amish have a very effective way of dealing with their pariahs; they shun them.

Robert (Conservative Commentary) said...

Obob, the Freedom Riders are heroes to me. The shameful thing is that they are necessary. I heard someone on FoxNews yesterday, and I wish I could remember who it was, but he said our media environment is different than in times past. WWII would see heroes profiled, movies made about them, and then they would be paraded to the homefront as often as possible. Today, the media is so left wing that they can't even bring themselves to be on the American side. I still harbor much ill will toward Bernard Shaw for his assinine behavior in the Gulf War I.

Rocky, I agree that they are over the top. They are not supported by the far majority of Baptists, much less Christians. However, I posit this question: Who decides they shold be shunned? I am angered as much by Michael Moore and is movies as I am disgusted at the Westboroites. I don't think his perspective is any less pitiful than theirs, but no one calls for his censorship.

There is much speech that I disagree with and do not like. However, to assure my freedom to make an ass of myself with my speech, I must also tolerate others doing the same.

Thanks for the compliments. I am not sure I would classify them as "insightful", but they work for me!

A Newt One said...

Can I interest you in joining the Truth Surge blogroll? It can be found on our site and we'd love to have you on board!

E-mail me at if you are interested.

rockync said...

"Who decides they should be shunned?"

In order to preserve our freedoms, I imagine this would have to be done on an individual basis. If I own a business, I can choose to not serve them, I can choose to not talk to them in the street, I can speak up at a meeting if I belonged to an organization to which they wanted to belong. I just don't see why I should treat them like fellow human beings when their actions and words are so inhumane.

Shaw said...

Today, the media is so left wing that they can't even bring themselves to be on the American side.

If I remember correctly, the media were very eager to and did publicize the heroic stories about Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch. Or don't those count?

Seth said...

My own take is, and long has been, that the liberties we enjoy as Americans do not come without attached personal responsibilities.

I say personal responsibilities because they are of a discretionary, rather than legally mandated nature, not unlike the once honored and respected "handshake" employed to conclude a business deal or other agreement/transaction.

The responsibility lies solely with the individual, which is as it should be, because once we allow the government to determine what we can and can't say in a single instance, we set a precedent that could lead to further legislative control of our First Amendment rights.

The left is already pressing for this in their efforts to expand the legal parameters, for purely partisan political reasons, of what determines "hate speech".

For this reason, I don't see the Snyders winning their suit unless they obtain a concession from Westboro Baptist Church, which seems highly unlikely as those shameless, contemptible commode cakes (as you can see, I'm exercising the utmost restraint in the Adjective Department here) are as fanatical about their niche in the scheme of things as were Jim Jones and David Koresh.

This might end at SCOTUS level, and if the Constitutional interpretation therein is accurately ascribed, the Court would rule in favor of Westboro.

Westboro Baptist Church is a cockroach infestation protected, unfortunately, by the very document that defines our rights as Americans. Tampering with their legal right to do what they do, no matter how despicable, would open doors we really don't want to open.

I am, however, all for the idea of private citizens doing whatever it takes to keep these vermin and their blatant abuse of the First Amendment away from the funerals of those who have died in the service of our country.

rockync said...

Seth, all good points. I take comfort in knowing that these creeps will one day stand before their Maker and give an accounting for their behavior.

Robert (Conservative Commentary) said...

Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch. Those were exciting stories that showed heroism, although I am not sure what Lynch did to bring this about. I think the real story there is the rescue efforts.

Without a google search, do you know the following names: Brian Chontosh, Michael Murphy, Jason Dunham, Paul Smith?

If not, then you should. If you do, how did you learn of them? I am pretty certain it wasn't on the nightly news.

swampcracker said...

A great post, Robert.

I always taught my kids that freedom and reponsibility were two sides of the same coin. If one acts with responsibility, there reward is freedom. If one abuses freedom, there will be less of it.

For me, this is not a legal concept but an ethical and moral one. When I consider the Westboro Baptists, I do not see them as religious, Christian, or moral. What I do see is the first of the deadly sins called "Pride." Let me explain.

I speak only for myself, not for another another, and certainly not for God. According to my feeble religious understanding, it is terribly arrogant to assume that one can know God and/or speak for Him. For me, there can be no moral, psychological or spiritual growth without humility. The Westboro folks are arrogant, not humble, and that is why they hurt people.

This my conservative side.

Robert (Conservative Commentary) said...

Swamp, I agree with you. In my feeble understanding of God, my relationship with him is personal. It is between he and I that I believe in Jesus or not; That I worship or pray or work in his name is a personal decision and only He can judge me.

God's calling is for me to share his message with love, not with hate. I should tell others of the grace and love he has for me, and that my transgressions can be forgiven if I ask.

Westboro is counter to everything that I have learned.

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