I’ve heard a lot of American Christians worrying about the potential for hate speech laws that criminalize opposition to gay marriage or other homosexual issues. I’ve always thought that these worries were overblown, but I know that many other countries do have more stringent laws against verbal assaults and I recognize that some people fear that America is headed in that direction.
The First Amendment protects hateful protests at military funerals, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in an 8-1 decision.
“Speech is powerful,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain.”
But under the First Amendment, he went on, “we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Instead, the national commitment to free speech, he said, requires protection of “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”
Folks, if we aren’t going to put Fred Phelps away, you ain’t got nothing to worry about. So, please, stop with the hand wringing and the persecution complex.