I hold Westboro Baptist Church in the greatest contempt. They are hateful, graceless, and they shame the name of Christ. That said, I applaud today’s Supreme Court ruling that upheld their right to speech, even hateful speech.
The debate over the 1st amendment often gets mired in detours over sexual content and entertainment, over content distributors editing TV and films to increase market share to cries of “censorship” from the content creators.
It’s easy to forget that the original intent of the 1st Amendment was to protect political speech, and especially political speech that is unpopular and confrontational, even hateful. It is a shield that protects not only the speaker, but that protects society from a barren marketplace of ideas, where the monopoly of populism silences all other voices. Whatever else it is, the actions of Westboro are political, ideological expression. They are exactly the kind of speech that the 1st Amendment was written to protect.
You may not like the kind of speech that Westboro engages in – I don’t know anyone who does. Even so, we should be proud of a legal and political system that protects their right to freely speak.
And, once we have patted ourselves on the back, we should use every other means possible to shout them down. We should not use the law to silence public speech, but we should absolutely use public speech to shout down horrible ideas.