Analysis: Their hatred is protected by law

By Paul Berger, October 1, 2009
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The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) protest was met with the most efficient weapon against hatred — humour.

Brooklynites parodied the church’s trademark “God Hates Fags” placards with their own, such as “Jesus Had Two Dads” and a pet sporting a “Dog Loves Fags” sign.

Rabbi Bachman urged the crowd to thumb their noses at the protesters. People danced the Horah. There was a carnival atmosphere.

If only Westboro Baptist Church could be laughed off so easily.

The church’s favoured tactic is protesting at military funerals. Followers claim military deaths are god’s vengeance for acceptance of homosexuality. Their message: “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Grieving relatives do not have the luxury of being able to shrug off such bile with dancing or jokes.

Meanwhile, America’s First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech, shields the hatred.

Last week, a federal appeals court threw out a $5 million judgment against WBC, awarded to Albert Snyder, who sued after the church picketed his son’s funeral in 2006 and was awarded the money for invasion of privacy and emotional distress.

In tossing out the decision, the appeals court ruled that WBC’s signs are protected by the First Amendment. Perhaps it is time for another amendment, one to protect another inalienable right — a human being’s dignity.

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010