Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interesting Decision By The Supreme Court

I may get some tatty e-mail concerning what I'm about to say [in fact, some of my former students have already written to me about this], but it was a decision that ultimately protects even those of us from mainstream congregations, especially in regards to our right to engage in political discourse.

Personally, I think the Westboro Baptist Church about the most distasteful collection of puzzlewits ever to be organized under the remarkably broad umbrella of American Protestantism.  However,  I point to this rather eloquent quotation from the decision:

Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate. That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case.
During my lifetime, the Episcopal Church has spoken controversially about the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, nuclear proliferation,  gay rights, and has issued opinions in every conceivable forum.  It is common for the Presiding Bishop to write letters of concern to the President of the US and members of both the Supreme Court and the Congress.  In some congregations, it is not unusual on a Sunday to hear of the preacher's political ideology and how closely it resembles Jesus' imagined attitudes about American social experience.  Despite the veneer of spirituality, these are political statements.  To limit such statements, if legally engaged, from an organization with which one strongly disagrees would open the door to limit political speech from all churches and religious organizations, including those with whom one is in agreement.

I suppose this is why the vote was 8-1.