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The Wesboro Baptist Church

analytical Essay
1259 words
1259 words
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The Westboro Baptist Church is an independent, small church operating in Topeka, Kansas. Pastor Fred Phelps leads the church. The church openly professes extremist views, and has gained notoriety from picketing military funerals, stating that deceased servicemen and women are the God's punishment for waging war. They call the U.S the “evil nation.” WBC's internet page, godhatesfags.com, believes that the church conducts “peaceful demonstrations opposing the fag lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth.” WBC opened services in 1995, and started its picketing in 1991. It states that it has held 48,341 pickets to date.

Although the church only has a small gathering, it has created interest and sparked controversy. In 2007, WBC was the subject of Louis Theroux's BBC video documentary called The Most Hated Family in America. In 2011, the family of an U.S Marine whose funeral had been picketed filed a lawsuit against Phelps. Snyder v Phelps was heard by the U.S supreme court, which ruled eight-to-one in favor of WBC during appeal. This case provoked debate among scholars and the public, as people questioned the appropriateness of limiting free speech when applied to such protests.

The Westboro Baptist Church’s activities and views are abhorrent. However, the supreme court’s ruling in favor of Phelps in the Snyder case is one that must be supported, and more generally there is an undeniable right for such a group to exist. Picketing at funerals does deliver more extreme emotional damage families of the victims than other forms of free speech, but the remedy should not be to limit the right of these groups to picket. There are already existing limits on the proximity in which such picketing of the funerals can be, which mu...

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...s warranted.

Leiter’s recognition of the problem is important, and his analysis of causes sound, but any solution should provide a better recourse than what is taking place at the moment. In many real cases the difficulty of sifting through vile speech and counter-speech seems impossible, and as Leiter himself discovered, efforts to regulate cyber-cesspools tend to generate new and larger pools of abuse. One option could be for there to exist a government agency (much like the Federal Communications Commission) that reviewed websites, received complaints, and threatened to shut down such sites that displayed excessive amounts of abusive. Even so, these cites could simply change domain names. Also, would the government be willing to fund such an agency? Unfortunately, internet pollution won’t be going away soon. Perhaps the best hope is to develop greater tolerance.

In this essay, the author

  • Describes the westboro baptist church as an independent, small church operating in topeka, kansas. the church professes extremist views, and has gained notoriety from picketing military funerals.
  • Analyzes how the church's small gathering has sparked controversy. in 2007, the family of an u.s marine whose funeral had been picketed filed a lawsuit against phelps.
  • Argues that the supreme court's ruling in favor of phelps in the snyder case is one that must be supported. picketing at funerals does deliver more extreme emotional damage families of the victims than other forms of free speech.
  • Analyzes how meiklejohn argued that there must be no limits to the free flow of information and thoughts. he developed the idea of private and public speech, which grants absolute protection to public
  • Analyzes mill's harm principle, which states that power can only be exercised against the will of a civilized community to prevent harm to others.
  • Explains that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a state to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to incite or produce imminent lawless action.
  • Analyzes how the snyder case spilled into the virtual world of the internet. chatrooms, blogs and comment pages are ideal cyber-locations for those who want to demean, harass, and humiliate others.
  • Explains that js mill argued that suppressing speech was hurtful to the public whether the opinions were wrong or right. he believes that men must use discussion and experience to make good decisions.
  • Opines that mill's harm principle would certainly apply to case of cyber-cesspools. the principle is based upon negative freedom and the belief that the sole end for those living in a mature, civilized society is self-protection.
  • Analyzes how brian leiter coined the term "cyber-cesspools" in describing these internet caches of infelicitous hate speech.
  • Argues that leiter's recognition of the problem is important, and his analysis of causes sound, but any solution should provide a better recourse.
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