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The Rights Of The Mourning Vs. The Right To Free Speech

Updated on October 24, 2010

Whose Rights Should Be Protected?


There has been quite a bit of debate regarding whether or not individuals or groups have the right to protest at military funerals. Following the letter of the law, those that are protesting are, in fact, covered by the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech. One of the beauties of living in America is our ability to stand up and shout for what we believe in and feel passionate about regardless of whether or not what you are supporting or protesting is popular. Essentially, if you do not mind being the subject of public scorn or ridicule, feel free to say whatever you want.

There are very few people who would argue that those who protest military funerals are not entitled to their opinion. The question is really a matter of morality and integrity. This church group, led by disbarred lawyer Pastor Fred Phelps, feels very strongly that the reason so many of our troops are dying over the war over terrorism is because America supports gay rights, and abortions, by way of protecting this country through military practices. They feel so strongly that they sing songs of hell and shout words of hate that they paint on signs. Signs that read “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”, “God Hates Fags”, “God Hates America” and “Dead Soldiers are Going to Hell.”

There is a lot more to our country than the sum of these two issues. This country was founded on the belief that a man should be able to be free to practice the religion of their choice without fear of reprisal from any other man through the separation between church and state. Lately that line seems to be getting blurred and Pastor Phelps is using that ambiguity to his advantage.

His opinions are shared by the members of his church, right down to the children who fiercely defend their narrow-minded views with an angry passion rarely seen in young children. The question that is being asked by many is how they feel that a family in mourning should have no right to privacy. There is a great deal of speculation regarding their choice of operating protocol in openly mocking the pain and heartache felt by those who have just permanently lost somebody they loved. Somebody who died for the right of inconsiderate persons defiling the sacred burial ceremony being performed.

Perhaps the correct question should be how they feel they have the moral right or obligation to protest. The literature that they are following, the literature that they say provides them with the answers, is the same written word that states that it is not man’s place to judge others. Christianity, at it’s core, based on The Holy Bible, is about living a good and honest life free from the seven deadly sins by following the Ten Commandments. They teach you to not hurt others, suppress lusty desires for material temptations, be humble, and treat others with kindness. It seems that protesting the death of a person who felt the need to protect our freedoms violates several of those basic principles.

It may be that the general public is missing the point. The point apparently being that any country that would even consider allowing homosexuals and women who get abortions to have any rights at all should not be surprised or upset when even the youngest members of their military die. While supporting one’s country, it is possible to serve your country and protect what it stands for without agreeing with all of it’s individual policies. It is also possible to protect the freedoms of people with ideals that differ from oneself. Publicly protesting the country’s policies is allowable and protected and the church has certainly found a forum that grants them national coverage. But at what cost? Is there no consciousness among the congregation? If the argument is that the soldier who protects this sinful country deserves to die and have his family embarrassed, then it would stand to reason that their blatant acts of outspoken disapproval of the government as a whole could be easily construed as treason or domestic terrorism. Both offenses are illegal and carry strict penalties.

In the end, it is up to the courts to decide whose rights should be held in higher regard in respect to the other. The country will be closely following the proceedings of this trial as the outcome will be very telling in regards to how this country really feels about it’s citizens and whether or not the pursuit of justice has truly been lost over the pursuit of political correctness. For fear of offending anyone, those with less than pure motives have been able to corrupt the system in their favor. It is a problem that is of great concern to many, as it should be. The argument here is not whether or not the church members have a right to protest but whether or not it is more important to allow mourners the right to privacy.


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    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      Dave, I share your opinions whole-heartedly. I believe in our right to free speech but I believe stronger in respecting others, especially those who have died for my liberties.

      Dennis, Thank you for reminding my about the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, I had forgotten about that. It seems others have, too. To each their own but when that involves blatant disrespect for others who are down, I cannot help but speak out against it.

    • Dennis AuBuchon profile image

      Dennis AuBuchon 7 years ago

      Individuals have the right to their opinions but those opinions must not violate the rights of others. Protesting at military funerals is something I feel should not occur. Demonstrating at military funerals is not the time or place to make a point. There is a law which was signed by President Bush called Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act. This act bars protests within 300 feet of the entrance to a cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery. There is a time period covered by this law. It is 60 minutes before and 60 minutes after a funeral.

      It is good that you brought this issue up as it should be kept in the public view. I have written a similar article titled Respect for heroes at the time of their burial.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      WHY? WHY? Why would anyone seek to hold a protest gathering at any funeral let alone one for a fallen soldier of war. Do these protest people have no respect for the dead, or for the sacrifice that these people have made to protect your country as well as your rights. It is disgraceful that they would choose to hold such a rally at a funeral.

      Brother Dave.