In Defense of Westboro Baptist Church


You've undoubtedly heard of Pastor Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. The church, largely consisting of Phelps' own family, is infamous for protesting the funerals of American soldiers killed in combat and other high-profile funerals. Evidently, the Phelps clan believes that any untimely death is the result of cultural acceptance of homosexuality.

I detest what this Christian extremist church stands for, and I find their tactics to be utterly despicable. But I defend their right to protest, even when such protests include holding anti-gay signs at funerals.

As much as I hate what they are saying, I defend their right to say it. This is what free speech is about. Anybody can defend speech with which he or she agrees. That's easy. The real test is hate speech. As long as Westboro Baptist is not inciting violence or breaking some other law, they should be free to protest. We don't have to like what they are doing, but we need to let them do it.

Defending Christian extremists' right to spread hate is not always easy. But I think that is the point: it isn't supposed to be easy. That doesn't make it any less essential.