There’s the law and then there’s plain common decency.
The U.S. Supreme Court found itself arbitrating between the two this week and in its ruling, came down on the side of the former. But it did so at the expense of the latter.
The court ruled that as hurtful as it is for the grieving family, it’s OK for a controversial fundamentalist U.S. Baptist church to send raucous protesters to demonstrate outside the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The court’s ruling, in essence, says It’s OK for the protesters to use the opportunity to shout homophobic and anti-abortion slurs and insult the dead soldiers who are being laid to rest.
The justices ruled 8-1 saying free speech, no matter how ugly, was protected by that country’s constitution.
So the Westboro Baptist Church will be allowed to continue spreading its messages of hate, no matter how it affects the loved ones who have lost a son, daughter, father or mother.
In a Canada, we like to think we are different than the United States and any person with an ounce of empathy and caring should hope that such a barbaric display of mean-spirited venom does not take root here.
As is the case often, despite the aforementioned desire to be different, we in Canada often copy what’s done in the U.S. if we think it can be effective.
But to those who would consider following suit, please don’t confuse the sacrosanct right to free speech and expression with the humanity of letting grieving parents and children bury their dead in peace.
Protesting in Canada in recent years has often turned ugly but so far it has not intruded on the funerals of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. We need to keep it that way.
We can’t let decency become yet another casualty of war.
There is a time and place for everything. Funerals, however, are not the place to wage a war of words.