Column: Free speech can’t justify all

Janica Kaneshiro | Staff Writer

Put simply, the First Amendment is an important one. It’s what makes us Americans. Okay, so we’ve been hearing this since the second grade, right? But it wasn’t until recently I had even considered that there might be a truly ugly part of this freedom. I don’t think it’s so much the amendment I’ve suddenly found a beef with, but more so the fact that people use free speech as an excuse for their absent morality.

My ‘ah-ha’ moment came while watching a segment from CNN with Katie Couric. People from The Westboro Baptist Church were picketing across the street of a Marine’s funeral. Their message: God hates gays — that’s why soldiers are dying. I sat and listened to the dead Marine’s father talk about how they ruined his son’s funeral, and I grew more upset by the second.

Let’s back track. Matthew Snyder, the dead marine, wasn’t even gay.

Others being interviewed said that any moralistic Christian would join this protest.

Wrong. In fact, that doesn’t even make sense.

The word here that bothers me is moralistic. What moralistic person in their right mind would protest outside of somebody’s funeral? No matter what your beliefs are, there is a line that needs to be drawn. If you overstep that line, under the first amendment or not, you’re wrong.

As a journalist, I have the utmost respect for the first amendment. I know journalism wouldn’t exist without my right to freely inform the public, but on the other hand, I’m also a human being. If you believe God hates gays, fine, I respect your belief. I certainly don’t agree with it, but I respect it.

What I don’t respect is that these people took their beliefs to something that should be off limits and untouchable: everybody is entitled to grieve. Whether his son was gay or not, Snyder’s father had the right to grieve over his death, and this protest shouldn’t have taken away that final moment he had to say goodbye. This is where the idea of having morals comes in.

It’s not okay to make a spectacle out of something so painful like a family death, especially a country-serving marine. He went to war and died for these people.

Yes, we have this First Amendment thing because we’re Americans. We have the right to say whatever we want. Isn’t that what Snyder was fighting to protect? Freedom?

This protest isn’t really a governmental issue or even an issue of Christianity. It’s an issue of morality. If you believe in a cause, fight for it. Hold rallies, march in front of the capital: fine. But low blows in any situation are uncalled for.