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Mills v. Westboro Baptist Church

April 10, 2011

Consider John Stuart Mill –a purveyor of freedom of speech.    Despite his enthusiasm for everyone’s right to speak their mind, he also has guidelines and exceptions to his argument.

Fast forward to present day, where the air we breathe is wasted on the swine of the Westboro Baptist Church.  To those who don’t know of these lunatics, they are religious buffoons who infamously picket the funerals of our country’ fallen soldiers.  Throughout the services they hold signs saying how God hates the troops and how they hope for more soldier deaths.  These actions are disturbing and adds even more pain and suffering to the families whose loved ones have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms – so why haven’t the scum of WBC been disbanded or punished?

 

 

Unfortunately, the Constitution is a double-edged sword as it gives these imbeciles the right to do such things.  The church has been hit with numerous lawsuits for their sick actions.  However, they always manage to weasel themselves out of it claiming how they are exercising their right to free speech.

Hypothetically imagine that the WBC is being prosecuted and that Mills is deciding the verdict.  Based on what he have learned so far, he would not hesitate to lock these criminals up.   Mills would be disgusted with the actions of this organization.  In fact, the WBC would be the very “nuisance” that he spoke of in our readings last week.  They are abusing their liberties and committing actions that are what Mills believes to be the hazards of giving individuals freedom of speech.  Earlier in discussion, we learned of how Mills’ conveys the freedom of speech to an extent that it does not harm others, nor does it spread falsities or encourage to cause harm.  However, this “church” inflicts pain and trauma to any family member at these funerals.  In addition to picketing, WBC also demonstrates with signs propagating how God hates homosexuals and encouraging death and violence upon them.  Such hateful words are false because nobody really knows what God may feel and it can easily entice weak-minded watchers to attack homosexuals.  Mills would not see the WBC as exercising their right to speak their opinion.  Rather, he’d say their abusing their freedom.

I’m interested to see how others feel on this issue.  Please comment!

 

 

 

 

2 Comments
  1. jasonkraman permalink
    April 10, 2011 10:32 PM

    Reviewing the Harm Principle I do believe Mill would allow the Westboro Baptist Church to operate. They are causing no physical harm onto anyone and are simply expressing their opinions. Mill supports the consideration of opinions and does not believe there any certain truths in life. Granted, he would probably not support their hateful speech but nonetheless on principal he would not encourage government intervention. He supports the “experiment of living” and would not want to prohibit the church from experimenting with their beliefs. Now, if it was proven that the WBC commited violent crimes or encouraged people to eventually commit crimes I believe this would be a different story. Mill would not allow a group to influence someone when they did not have the best interest of the individual at heart. This is why he is against voluntary slavery and prostitution, because the group encouraging people to enter into these practices, are doing so for the wrong reason. However, I think as it stands now Mill would allow the WBC to operate as long as they continued to abide by the Harm Principle and and rightfully exercise their freedom.

  2. mstranseth permalink
    April 12, 2011 1:35 AM

    I’m not sure if Mill would allow the WBC wackos to operate, but I’m also not entirely convinced that if given the choice he would abolish them. Still, I’m not sure I agree that the WBC is experimenting with their beliefs. I don’t feel that they are experimenting with anything, they are simply trying to spread their beliefs. The only experiment they may be performing is how far they can take 1st amendment legal arguments. While that may be a good experiment for law students to try some time, I highly doubt the WBC is actively and consciously performing that experiment. They are simply trying to spread some moronic beliefs that even go against their own religion.

    My personal opinion is that they have the right to protest. I hate that they do it and would feel no sympathy if any veterans decided to “show them how they feel” but I would not create a precedent of prohibiting free speech when there is no clear and present danger caused by it.

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