Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Phelps' Precedent

Today, the United States Supreme Court, by an 8-1 decision I've dubbed the Phelps' Precedent, affirmed the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to freely express themselves by picketing military funerals. There will surely be all kinds of learned commentary, both supporting and criticizing this ruling. We are a nation of laws, and I suppose it is appropriate that the Court should uphold the law and rule in favor of freedom of speech.

Today's legal ruling unfortunately highlights an abridgement that is beyond the purview of any court or legislature to correct - the diminution of human decency. In days gone by, Americans knew the difference between right and wrong. Their conscience was their guide. People understood the value of hard work and sacrifice, respected each other, and demonstrated reverential awe for God, and held family and country close in their hearts.

Now, many in American society are drawn to the pornographic. Pornographic can describe any action taken to elicit a quick and intense emotional reaction, not only something salacious or lewd, but shocking or titillating. Larry Flynt wrapped himself in the flag and almost single-handedly won First Amendment protection for pornography. Show gory photos of shattered babies in the aftermath of an abortion to get the antiabortion message across. Burn a cross or a flag or a Koran to show how bad those other people are or how bad you hate them.What passes for entertainment is replete with pornographic moral dysfunction and violence.

What Westboro does is no different. The problem is that they now see themselves as somehow legitimized by today's court ruling. Westboro has been waging a shrill and self-indulgent pogrom against the world since 1991. The Phelps' Precedent makes peddling a pornographic message of hate a constitutionally protected activity. In our free society, the law allows them to vent their spleen in the marketplace of ideas. The best thing we can do for ourselves is turn our backs and walk away.

The law truly is the last refuge of scoundrels.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, because legal and right aren't always the same thing.

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