The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






Ashley's Avenue

Does Free Speech Ever Cross the Line?

by Ashley Murphy

I was sitting here at work not too long ago reading through headlines on various news sites and one in particular caught my eye. It was an old case that has recently come to light again involving a deceased Marine who gave his life overseas in 2006 to help keep our country safe.

Once brought back home to the United States, the young soldier's father proceeded to bury the man and praise the short life that was given to him, and so abruptly taken away. Others who felt the soldier should receive the same respect showed up to his funeral for support.

Though the family and friends were suffering greatly for their loss, one group in attendance decided to dig deeper into those wounds and interrupt the grieving process.

I'm sure the majority of people in this country, and even farther I hear, know of a group called Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas. I'm not sure how they came about calling themselves a church, but they did. Some believe they are a cult and the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies them as a hate group. The Anti-Defamation League even has Westboro on a monitoring system because of their constant hate speech.

The funeral mentioned above was that of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. While Westboro has been in attendance to picket many other funerals, this case came about again at the request of Albert Snyder, Matthew's father. He asked that the courts reinstate a $5 million verdict against Westboro members who participated in the picketing outside of his son's funeral. The verdict was thrown out previously by a federal appeals court in Richmond, VA on the grounds that the "church" was expressing their First Amendment rights.

This is where I have a problem. I believe in free speech. I wholeheartedly believe in the

Ashley Murphy
People News Media Assistant

Do you have questions or comments? If so, e-mail Ashley at:

First Amendment and the Constitution of the United States of America, but when does "free speech" cross the line? And will respect ever have a standing meaning in the United States today?

These Westboro members are holding signs outside of funerals that read phrases such as: "Soldiers Die, God Laughs," "God Hates You," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "You're Burning in Hell" and "God Hates the USA."

Westboro justifies these pickets, saying they are simply performing God's work

and thedeaths are a punishment for Americans' immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and even abortion.

But how is this justified solely as free speech? This sounds more like defamation, exploitation and even harassment. Seems to me they believe themselves to be superior, "hating" anyone who is not a member of their group and doesn't share their same thoughts and ideas.

Yet, if this is the way the "church" truly feels, then they should hold their hate rallies on

their own property! They would still be expressing free speech toward anyone who comes by, but giving more respect to the grieving families (in a sense, anyway) to honor the life of someone so close to them and loved by them.

To counter, I believe the family members and friends of the deceased who Westboro is picketing should be allowed the RIGHT to the grieving process and have a funeral uninterrupted by a group of people shouting that your son, daughter, wife, husband, mother, father, etc. deserved to die. And that God killed that person out of spite because God hates the world.

How could God hate the world? He created it! He made us. He gave his son to die for our sins.

I'm not here to give a Bible study, and frankly, that's not what I want to do at

all. But if you're interested in learning a few facts about the Bible and how unbelievably misguided this group at Westboro truly is, please visit this blog site, Emily is Smiling and read 'Where is God's Hatred?'

The author of this site definitely did her research. She has listed many facts throughout the article proving God's love for his creation and the ability for people to repent their sins.

I don't believe God would condone the type of "services" Westboro is putting forward. God does not hate; he loves. It is said that you shouldn't pass judgment on to others and Westboro doesn't decide who should die and who goes to hell. That judgment is passed down by God, and only God.

When it comes time for these Westboro members to receive their judgment from God, I'm sure their eternal placement will not be where they expectedů