July 2, 2010

In Defense of Westboro Baptist Church

phelpschildhatingamerica.jpgYou'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, Phelps believes that any untimely death is the result of cultural acceptance of homosexuality.

I detest what Phelps and his Christian extremist church stand 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 Phelps is saying, I defend his right to say it. This is what free speech is about. Anybody can defend speech with which he or she agrees. The real test is hate speech. As long as Phelps is not inciting violence or breaking some other law, he should be free to protest as he sees fit.

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