The Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based organization that has won notoriety by descending like vultures onto the memorial services of American soldiers to spread its hate messages, is threatening to appear at Saturday's service in North Adams honoring PFC. Michael D. DeMarsico, who was recently killed serving in Afghanistan. If church representatives do so, attendees should deprive them of the attention they and their ilk most crave.
According to the church's tortured logic, God hates America because of its tolerance of homosexuals and other sins and is pleased when soldiers die in defense of America. Church protesters show up at funerals for fallen soldiers to celebrate their deaths. More can be learned about the church from its own provocatively named websites, among them www.God
Hates Fags.com, www.BeastObama.com and www.JewsKilledJesus.com.
The church, which only numbers about 40 members, spends a lot of time in court and is good at gaining attention disproportionate to its numbers and the cruelty and spitefulness of its message and its actions. In March 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by an 8-1 margin in a case brought by the father of a soldier who died in Iraq that the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church are protected by the First Amendment. Unfortunately, the court was correct. If free speech is denied to any group, no matter how vile, than it can be denied to anyone. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, our nation has chosen "to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."
Judging from the church's past actions, should church members show up on Saturday, mourners will be confronted by signs and placards that will sadden and anger them. However, confronting the picketers in response, either verbally or physically, will play right into their hands by giving them the attention they are here to gain. Groups like this crave relevance, and by ignoring church members if they attend Saturday, mourners can harm them in the worst possible way -- by rendering them and their shameful cause irrelevant.