By Gregory J. Rummo
As a Christian first and a Baptist second, I am left to wonder about the deeper meaning behind the Supreme Court’s ruling to allow religious hate speech in public on Wednesday.
The high court ruled 8-1 in favor of allowing members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church to continue protesting at military funerals, displaying messages such as “Planes crash, God laughs,” “You’re going to hell,” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”
The case was made in newspaper editorials across the country that although the speech itself is hateful, ugly and “toxic,” it is nonetheless protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution and that the Court made the right decision.
But I have a few questions.
What was it about this type of speech that the High Court found so acceptable that it was willing to almost unanimously accommodate? Were the Justices inferring that this type of aggressive, religious hate speech is largely meaningless, that few take it seriously, that these Kansans are kooks and therefore it’s acceptable?
And does that not raise the question of why the High Court has consistently ruled the opposite on more moderate religious love speech: Ten Commandment postings in public places; Nativity displays in town squares and public buildings; prayer in public schools including graduations and sporting events; and allowing Bible clubs to meet during after-school hours?
What is it the High Court is protecting Americans from—religious truth?—the Bible in its purest form absent an aggressive tone? Christianity?
Clearly religious love speech can be compelling. It can be taken seriously. It has the power to work on the heart, mind and conscience of the listener effecting a life-changing transformation. And since the 1960s, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that religious love speech is “dangerous.”
The Supreme Court’s bipolar treatment of religious hate speech vs. religious love speech is well documented.
Take for example the 1980 decision “Stone vs. Graham” in which the posting of the Ten Commandments on the walls of public schools was ruled unconstitutional.
The Justices wrote: “If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps venerate and obey [them.] This is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.”
One is left to conclude that in America, it’s a constitutional right to disrupt military funerals, screaming hate-filled invectives such as “God hates fags,” at grieving family members but a violation of the First Amendment for a child attending a public school to be taught from the Bible that “God so loved the world.”
John 11:35 comes to mind: “Jesus wept.”
Gregory J. Rummo is a businessman and the author of “The View from the Grass Roots.” Contact him through www.GregRummo.com
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