Hate speech, free speech, what a mess.
jbone at place.org
jbone at place.org
Tue Oct 28 21:57:16 PST 2003
I'm all for free speech. I'm extremely conflicted about religious
speech in public places --- but I see a free speech argument there,
maybe, perhaps, sometimes, with constraints. And I'm sickened by hate
speech. Ugh, what a mess this is. If nothing else, it clearly points
out the horrible, ugly cancer at the heart of the fundy far right.
Free speech, hate speech clash
By Pete Williams, NBC News
Five years after University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was
killed, touching off a national dialogue on gay rights, an anti-gay
hate group wants to put up a monument to Shepard's murder in hiss
hometown. The city doesn't want it, but it is caught in a legal tangle
that involves, of all things, the Ten Commandments.
AT SHEPARD'S FUNERAL in his hometown of Casper, Wyo., an anti-gay hate
group demonstrated in a park across the street, led by the Rev. Fred
Phelps, a Baptist minister from Kansas.
Now members of Phelps' group are back in Casper pushing to be allowed
to put up a granite monument in the same park where they picketed at
The proposed monument would say, "Matthew Shepard entered Hell, October
That was the day that Shepard, 21, died of injuries and hypothermia he
suffered five days before when two men beat him with a gun butt and
left him to die while tied to a fence post in zero-degree weather,
after meeting him at a bar in Laramie. Both of the men were later
'GOD'S HATE, NOT HUMAN HATE'
"Our message is a message of God's hate, not human hate," said Marge
Phelps, the reverend's wife, also of the Westboro, Kan., Baptist
Church. "And the concept of God's hate is found in the Bible. And all
it means is that people are going to go to hell if they disobey God."
The city of Casper, home to about 50,000 residents, wants to say no but
may not be able to.
The city park where the anti-gay group wants to put the Shepard
monument already has a monument, this one honoring the Ten Commandments
from the Bible. And under the law, if the city wants to keep this
Shepard monument out, then the Ten Commandments will have to go, too.
Why? Because, legal experts say, the city unwittingly invited other
monuments when it put up the Ten Commandments in a public park.
"By putting the Ten Commandments in the park, they created a sort of
public forum for speech and debate," said Tom Goldstein, a First
Amendment attorney and appellate court lawyer. "And once the city does
that, it can't discriminate against other viewpoints, no matter how
MAYOR OFFENDED BY 'FILTH'
Casper Mayor Barb Peryam said she was offended by the Kansas group's
tactic. "The fact that Reverend Phelps, or Mr. Phelps, would come into
Casper and try and put that filth under the guise of the Ten
Commandments is total idiocy."
Bob Crosby, president of the local Eagles Club, which donated the Ten
Commandments, said the Eagles reluctantly offered the city a way out:
"We would hope they would donate it back to us, and we can display it
in an appropriate place."
Now the city council must decide what to do about this monument,
concerned that the Ten Commandments could be used to force the city
into accepting a message of hate.
Pete Williams is NBC News' chief justice correspondent.
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