Religion as hate instrument? Nothing new here

All the world is agog at the Supreme Court decision saying the alleged church, the Westboro Baptist Church, has a free speech right to be odious, and I guess they do.

People are outraged, but people have using religion to push other people around for years. The anti-abortion efforts across the nation are all religiously-driven. Battles to keep gays from being married are religious battles.

In Utah our Legislature operates with one ear to the rich lobbyists and one to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints office building. How many Utah laws have a religious reason? Let us count the way …

What’s the diff between that and Westboro? Only in matter of degree.  

Free Speech itself is always causing trouble. Here in Ogden, an ordinance to clamp down on gangs is being questioned by the ACLU as an abridgment of freedom of assembly and speech. Again, nobody likes gangs and what they do, but when the government starts picking and choosing which assemblies to make illegal, especially when nothing illegal happens at that particular assembly, only that it might, that’s a dangerous road to go down. Thought police on line one? 

We already see some allegedly-conservative commentators calling liberals traitors to the nation. That’s a step away from rounding them up and opening up the concentration camps again. Isn’t treason a death penalty offense? 

Which is why, odious as it is, the Westboro Church has to be allowed to do its odious thing. Shut them up (and I wish they would) next it might be you.

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18 Responses to Religion as hate instrument? Nothing new here

  1. Jennifer says:

    Odious is a nice word … so, Westboro has its freedom of speech & assembly –> Bring on the Patriot Guard Riders, et al. They don’t say much (nary an epithet), carry American flags and line up between the Westboorians and the grieving families; they also outnumber the Westboorians as well.

    I’m proud to be American – that doesn’t mean I have to like the ACLU. IMHO they seem to be scrambling for splinter groups with not-so-nice motives to back in court.


    • Bob Becker says:

      Splinter groups to defend?

      You mean like Fellowship Of Christian Athletes students at a public school who were told by the administration they could not post copies of the Ten Commandments on their locker doors when other students were allowed to post items on their locker doors? ACLU is involved working to protect the athletes right to post the Ten Commandments on their lockers if they wish to, a right protected by the first amendment.

      Story here:

      The ACLU comes to the aid of all kinds of people when government attempts to limit their constitutional liberties. The reason that often involves what most of us would consider fringe groups [the KKK, the American Nazi Party, CPUSA, the Scottsboro boys, etc.] is that groups out of the mainstream and out of power are the ones whose rights are more likely to be targeted by government.

  2. Charles Trentelman says:

    that’s the point, jennifer– any damn fool can support a mainstream group tht doesn’t offend anyone. To really support freedom of speech, you have to support — or at least allow — someone truely disgusting.

    The ACLU doesn’t seek them out intentionally — other people do, then the ACLU defends them. In so doing, it defends you as well, because not everyone is always going to agree with jennifer…

    • hawg says:

      yeah, ACLU the defender. unless of course it’s the 2nd amendment then they are a no show.

      but I could be wrong, maybe someone could point out the ‘friend of the court’ brief the ACLU filed on behalf of heller and mcdonald.

      • Al says:

        Here, let me google that for you.

        Oh! The ACLU turns out to have defended gun rights all over the place.

        • hawg says:

          thanks. looks like the occassional side job they may have been involved in, did you read any of the sites that pop up?

          one said the ACLU didn’t particularly advocate what heller said.

          another said they believe in a collective right not individual.

          no I didn’t read every possible thing written but these were in the first two or three articles listed.

          overall, you can’t really call the ACLU 2nd amendment friendly.

          and I didn’t see the ACLU pro heller/mcdonald brief either

  3. Jennifer says:

    vive la difference!

  4. Midwinter says:

    I was fairly astonished to see that Alito dissented on this decision. It seems to me that the Phelpses are well within their rights to protest.

  5. Jehovah’s Witnesses pursued court decisions to get in your face at the door steps,these same actions uphold rights of infamous hate church.
    Danny Haszard
    my page more on Jehovah’s Witnesses harassment

  6. Melissa Hofer says:

    I don’t see anything surprising. It is the trend the court has been taking and is only a “matter of degree”, exactly as you say. This is coming from a bunch of idealogogues – no compromises.

    The court interprets the Constitution to give “freedom of religion” not “freedom from religion”.

    • Bob Becker says:

      The federal courts, as I understand it, have held that the first amendment does protect freedom from religion — that is, the right not to practice any religion at all — as a part of the guarantee of freedom of religion.

  7. Melissa Hofer says:

    I have to add that the only relationship I can see between the Westboro Supreme Court case and the ACLU gang case is this:

    The ACLU seems to support freedom for gangs over freedom from gangs. Perhaps they are being a bit over the top as well.

    • Bob Becker says:

      Worth noting that ACLU is not defending gang members charged under the criminal statutes of Utah with having committed crimes [assault, theft, vandalism, murder, etc.] The ACLU is involved only in supporting Trece in challenging the constitutionality of the Ogden gang injunction, which is a civil procedure. They’re being arrested for violating an injunction [not a criminal statute] which makes what are not criminal activities [e.g. being in possession of felt tipped markers, or alcohol, or meeting with friends, or being out after eleven o:clock PM, 365 days a year and much much more] for anyone else in Ogden. And some of the people under the injunction have never previously been convicted of a crime, and have not even been charged with a crime. That’s the issue the ACLU has engaged on. Not defending gang members charged with crimes under the criminal statutes of Utah.

      All Trece members are subject to the criminal laws, and the ACLU is not involved in defending members charged with assault, theft, etc. Your post suggests you think otherwise.

  8. Melissa Hofer says:

    No, Bob, I don’t believe that. I actually believe some members of Trece may be reasonable people who understand what I’m trying to say. I think I’m displaying great confidence in that belief. I’m absolutely sure some little gang kids are much nicer people than superchristian jocks and cheerleaders.

    Maybe I agree with you, I normally would, but I see some unique situations here. Constitutional interpretation balances the rights of respective parties. Nobody has an absolute right to anything. You know that.

    Westboro can say what they want, as far as I’m concerned, WITHOUT disrupting a funeral. Even with military honors, that is a private event (my opinion). They can protest somewhere else. It’s a compromise of purist ideology. I realize that. I’m allowing real circumstances to count.

    I think the whole reason we talk about repealing the 14th amendment and building a wall between us and Mexico is gangs, not immigration concerns, not job concerns. Frankly, I think the main reason we can’t have neighborhood schools anymore is fear of gangs – other people’s kids.

    Fear may blow this problem out of proportion, but it’s not all in people’s heads, either. It’s kind of a big problem and I have some sympathy for the non-Trece members of the Ogden Hispanic community. Do they come out after 11:00 pm?

  9. Melissa Hofer says:

    I’m sorry. I suppose after thinking (a good thing to do) I basically agree with you, Charles & Bob. Reading Westboro, I see the only question really before the court was freedom of speech. I still think there are privacy issues that could have been argued and weren’t. And I think Westboro was quite personal in their comments and actions, as opposed to addressing general public issues. What is more personal than picketing a life event?

    But I guess all the state legislatures can go back & create funeral protest zone laws to compensate.

    I am sure the Ogden gang registry is completely over the top and unconstitutional, considering the authors and concomitant blimp-spying plan. I’m sure it will be easy-peasy for ACLU to argue & win.

    But it’s hardly a defense of the underdog.

  10. ZENNEPHI says:

    “Give peace a chance” lamented the late John Lennon, and I agree
    Charles; hate is rampient in instutionalized relegion.
    However we summize its’ germination/genisus of birth, I would like
    to reduce it to the lowest common denominator.
    The SS=”Street Society” is a catharsis of failure/loss in the home for
    a myriad of youth, especially hispanic. A faction of Ogden humainity
    that must live with the Gang, shun law enforcement, “dope-up”, and
    either conform with the hiearcy of there bonded grouping, or face
    certain death.
    I don’t know if Ogden Police have had to fend off protestors at the
    grave side services of a fallen soldier. There is no differential in
    subect matter to the above issue. Hate.
    So much hate and ambuguity to what they didn’t get at home. Manifesting itself with spouce/child-abuse, gang-bangs, and an
    everending cycle of calamity itself.
    And finally. Transgendered youth through some cosmic triangle
    of nurture and nature find it difficult to establish for themselves
    the differentation from a society “Idol” and an ‘Higher Ideal”, when
    that choice is placed before them. Then the scenerio is inverted.
    They hate themselves. If not intervened, a likley suicide.

  11. Melissa Hofer says:

    ACLU’s involvement merely means Trece won’t have to hire a lawyer. Because a paid lawyer could also defeat a completely bum law.

    From a pragmatic point of view there will be no change in the law of the land. The only question ACLU is really considering is whether Trece deserves a free defense. They believe they do. Fine.

    As a taxpayer, I hope the state drops the whole thing because I don’t want to pay for it. No higher ideal involved.

    • Bob Becker says:

      Once again, the ACLU is not defending Trece members accused of crimes established by the criminal law of Utah: murder, theft, assault, trespass, etc.

      It is providing help challenging the constitutionality of the injunction which, for people on the gang list only, turns innocent actions [being out after eleven, being in possession of felt tipped pens, being in possession of alcohol, etc.] into grounds for arrest. But it is not providing criminal defense attorneys in lieu of public defenders.

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