Arizona Stands Up to Hate

I can’t post much today. There is a K-State game on at the moment and their once large lead has dwindled to a very small lead. But a bit of news has come to my attention that requires a comment.

One of the worst parts about living in Kansas is who you get associated with. Namely, the Westboro Baptist Church and its angry partriach, Fred Phelps.  The church is well-known for protesting military funerals. They claim the death of soldiers is God’s reaction to America’s acceptance of homosexuality. If you’re interested, there is an interesting documentary called Fall From Grace, the examines the Phelps family and the church. It’s available from Netflix.  I first encountered the Westboro Baptist Church at a University of Kansas Symphony concert in the 9th grade. They are a regular fixture outside any public event they can get to.

Naturally, they planned to waltz down to Arizona, and forsake all dignity to protest the funerals of those killed Saturday. They have since cancelled the trip. I hate when I have to write about them, but what happened when the trip was announced was pretty remarkable.  In less than 3 days, the Arizona Legislature passed a law prohibiting protests within 300 feet of a funeral. Hundreds of Tucson citizens joined a movement intended to shield the victims families from the protesters. I remembered hearing about motorcycle gangs riding around the country to military funerals and doing the same thing.

It made me think. Free speech is a tricky thing. We all want to be able to express our thoughts freely. That’s why I started this blog. To have that freedom we must also acknowledge that others have the same right, even when we would spend every last bit our energy we have opposing them. That’s what those people at the funerals are doing. They’re saying, “We know you have the right to your bigoted, hate speech, but we’re going to do whatever we can to protect this family.”

Unfortunately, they are getting something for cancelling.  A number of radio stations have offered them air time to express their views. I would normally strongly disagree with giving these people any recognition at all, but this is different. The offers were just another example of citizens looking out for those who are grieving. What I can say is I wish it didn’t take bribery to make some people behave in a decent manner. At least the families of those killed on Saturday will be spared from these people.


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