God is the First Amendment

I’m teaching Comm classes this term at Central Washington University. Specifically, I’m teaching Media & Culture and First Amendment classes. What that means is that a handful of students, those who are taking both classes, have me for four hours a day.

Poor thangs.

But it also means constant, engaging dialogue, which carries over from one class to the next. Most of the students are out of King County (Seattle area). They are bright and well-read. Several are well-traveled, and are very actively involved in social justice issues.  They have a keen sense of humor and high levels of compassion.

The First Amendment class is a bit smaller than the Media class, so that allows for more students to be involved in the discussions. We’ve addressed war, flag-burning, porn, cussing, protesting, politics and parenting.

Today we talked about Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church.

The students were surprised to learn that the folks from Westboro had been to Ellensburg to protest.

It’s hard not to want to silence WBC, especially when you read, as we did, the latest press release from them:


Military funerals have become pagan orgies of idolatrous blasphemy, where they pray to the dunghill gods of Sodom & play taps to a fallen fool.This message to be preached in respectful, lawful proximity to the memorial of Capt. Joshua S. LawrenceFri., Oct. 21, at 12:15 p.m.Goodlettsville FBC613 S. Main Street, Goodlettsville, TN

Capt. Lawrence died in vain, and that America is a nation of sodomite hypocrites.“Except the Lord build the house, They labor in vain that build it;Except the Lord keep the city, The watchman waketh but in vain.” Psa. 127:1.The Lord no longer builds the American house; nor does the Lord watch over and protect  America. These soldiers are dying for the homosexual and other sins of America.  God is now America’s enemy, and God Himself is fighting against America.



Just makes your blood boil, don’t it?

There was a lot of discussion among the students about Westboro and First Amendment rights.

One student pointed out that even the KKK had denounced WBC and Fred Phelps, proving that even hate groups have a code of ethics and standards.

If the KKK rejects you for being bad ass, does that make you a total degenerate?

And if the answer to that question is yes, then by golly, shouldn’t you be stripped of your First Amendment rights?

These are the sorts of things we discuss.

And it was while discussing that very issue that it occurred to me that God is the embodiment of the First Amendment.

He gives audience to everyone.

Before God everyone has a voice.

No one is denied the right to speak because they are too small, too ugly, or too hateful.

God hears us all out

KKK members

and Westboro Baptist Church folks.

God wisely lets us state our grievances

He listens patiently to our rants

And He nods like a mother when we whine like a two-year-old.

Surely there are times when God would like to take a baseball bat and beat us upside the head, hoping to knock some sense into us,

But he doesn’t.

God embodies the First Amendment.

He’s committed to making sure that every person knows that in His presence, you matter.

He’s listening.


He wants to hear it.

The good.

The bad.

The ugly.

So go ahead.

Get it all out. The ranting. The raging. The hating.

He’s listening.

And when you’re done.

He’ll still be there, giving you his undivided attention.

Because when you stand before the Judge of all Judges, the thing he wants you to know for certain is that you matter.

In God’s presence, everyone is granted equal access.

So say what you will.

Say what you fear

God is listening.

He might not like what you have to say

Or the way you say it

But He’s already defended to the death your right to say it.







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  • AF Roger

    The great German reformer, who also had great blind spots, had a way of cutting to the chase about a book of the Bible, a doctrine or teaching of the church with this question: Does it make the most of Christ? I find myself wanting to ask a somewhat different question of people acting in the name of my God when I can’t begin to put my head inside their actions: What did Jesus bring to the table that wasn’t already there? Anything???

    A wise mentor also observed that “evil is never more quietly powerful than in the assumption that it resides elsewhere”. There’s a guide to live by as we stand before the mirror each morning or evening!

  • Anonymous

    Westboro Baptist Church spreads its hate through picketing in our streets, provoking attacks, with abusive language and flag desecration, attempting to create a confrontation. This is not a church, this is a hate group. This is not about protesting, freedom, or God. They are in it for the money and the press; this is a family law firm. They are not a “church.” It is a scam. They go after anything that can get them in the news. This is a family of lawyers using this “god hates you” thing to make money. It is time for this scam to end.

    • All of what you say is true but it is also true that no matter what they do, or how outrageous their actions, God’s answer to them, and to us, is grace. Even for these, he allows an audience.

  • ToronadoBlue

    Enjoyed reading this post and don’t know what if anything I could add to it. I guess I’ll just say that I pray for peace and the love that surpasses all.

    • Well, thank you for taking the time to read the post and to add your voice of grace here.

  • JohnHaselton

    Well said Karen. As the reformer Martin Luther once said “the devil is God’s devil” since God created everything in creation. If God listens to that hate filled being (see Job 1 and elsewhere) I’m sure the Westboro folks sound like bad little children. Who when things don’t go exactly as they think they should stomp thier little feet and pout.

  • JanetLee

    When the WBC picketed at the Jewish Community Center near my house, I went to join the protest against them.

    Within the group I joined were Christians, Jews, agnostics, non-theists, young, old, left, right, and we had all gathered together to express that idea that love is more powerful than hate.

    So maybe the universal glue -God, love, Karma, whatever name you give it – is using the WBC to try to teach us to love one another.

    • I have a friend who joined in a protest against WBC folks and I remember him saying that when it was all over he felt as bad about those protesting the WBC folks as he did about what the WBC folks were doing. Both sides were acting ugly. When we hate the hate groups we are the hate group.

      • JanetLee

        Oh no, that sounds awful. We had a great time, people just introduced themselves to each other, it was very uplifting and unifying. After it was over and we were leaving, employees came out of the Community Center to thank us for our support. Wonderfully positive experience.

  • They certainly have the right to say whatever they like. And we have the right, and the responsibility, to completely denounce what they say. And to make sure they are not allowed to act on the idiocy of what they’re saying…or that, if they do, they are then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    • Cathy: The Supreme Court has upheld their right to protest, as part of the First Amendment. I’m just saying that as detestable as I find them, I think God says even to those I find detestable, yes, you, even you matter to me.

      • I know.

        There was a story in the paper yesterday about a couple in Vancouver, WA who were arrested for abusing their 16-year-old adopted twins. Horrifically.

        There are all sorts of people in this world who should get down on their knees every night and thank God that Cathy LaGrow is not He.

  • Love this post. I am so thankful for grace.

    Oftentimes, I am sure that the words that ooze out of my mouth are not quite as honoring to my Jesus as I might hope. Yet, His love for me still remains unchanged, and knowing of my rebellion even before it occurred, He still chose to die for me. He still chose to give me a voice.

    I may not agree with the members of the Westboro Church (really at all…), but that doesn’t change their worth. I need to be better at remembering that…