There are few days when I am ashamed to be labeled “Baptist” but this week it was embarrassing to bear the name. The Supreme Court ruled that the vile, hateful speech of Westboro Baptist Church was protected by the First Amendment.
Justice Roberts wrote:
“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.”
If you don’t know the story of the “church”, these are the people who protest at the funerals of fallen American soldiers with hurtful signs celebrating the deaths of some of our finest sons and daughters. Granted as a Baptist we believe deeply in freedom of religion and in soul competence, but we also believe in the sovereignty of a holy God who watches over us all.
The Supreme Court may allow these actions based on its reading of the constitution, but Jesus declares these hurtful actions to be out of bounds, and terribly wrong. Jesus declared that his followers were to “love our enemies, and bless those who cursed us.” He declared his followers should “love their neighbor as themselves.” Even the most pointed Old Testament prophet never spew the kind of venom these deceived men and women spread.
As followers of Jesus we must stand up against this kind of hate speech in the name of the Jesus. I am not critical of the Supreme Court and its ruling. I accept this is part of the freedom in our land, but I would remind the members of Westboro Baptist Church that they will one stand before our Risen Lord to give an account, and I fear it will be a dreadful day for them unless they change soon.