Once words are spoken for people to hear or written for people to read, they cannot be taken back. The First Amendment gives all Americans the right to freedom of speech, which is a great thing as people everywhere in the world should be able to speak their mind and their opinion. However, can freedom of speech be taken too far, and are there certain occasions and situations where people should not be allowed to speak their mind, out of consideration?
After the Arizona shootings on Jan. 8, where six people were killed and 13 wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, there have been big discussions around the country about whether funeral protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church should be allowed to protest at the funerals of the victims. On Jan. 11, the Arizona legislatures unanimously voted to pass a law that prevents funeral protesters from protesting within a 300-feet radius of the funerals.
Many may have learned that there is a time and a place for everything, a funeral is the time for the living to say a last goodbye. At the funerals in Tucson, Ariz., people were mourning the loss of those who were suddenly taken away from them. A funeral is hard enough as it is for loved ones. It is hard to imagine mourning a loss while nearby protestors are saying “Your loved one died because this is how God punishes the sins of America,” or “God hates you”.
Having an opinion is supposed to be a good thing and speaking your opinion is usually great. However, sometimes the question of where the compassion for the fellow American has gone must be asked, and we need to realize that sometimes we have to draw the line, out of respect for others.
Knowing that someone you are close to was killed seems very unfair. They already died in a way that was unexpected to most. Westboro Baptist Church is known worldwide for being very radical as they protest for different causes they believe in, including funeral protesting. They receive different reactions for their opinions and actions, and some even view them as a hate group. There are people who support them, while others are disgusted by their different ways of protesting.
It is understandable that the vote by the Arizona legislatures was unanimous, as they wanted to prevent the funeral protesters to come down out of respect for the families of those who were killed. However, it could be argued that this is unconstitutional because it conflicts with the First Amendment which does give all Americans the right to speak their minds.
There is a time and place for everything, and there are different ways of speaking your opinion. Protesting at funerals is not appropriate, and shows a lack of respect for those who lost their life. The Westboro Baptist Church spread their messages by being extremely radical but they might be more effective by finding a different way.
You may shout out your opinion as loud as you can, but you can just as easily get your point through by speaking in a normal voice. This would also save everyone a headache.
Inger Furholt is a senior majoring in journalism. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org