I read an article about a case going up to the Supreme Court that concerns the free speech of religious groups who protest at military funerals. Specifically, the protest comes from a reverend and his church followers that appear at the funeral services of fallen servicemen and carry signs that blame the deaths of our military of the U.S. government’s acceptance of gays and lesbians to serve. One of the fathers sued the reverend and won a $5 million verdict for invasion of privacy. The verdict was thrown out on appeal, and now the case is heading to the Supreme Court next term.
Also, the Supreme Court is to hear a case that concerns membership rules for student groups and public universities. At one public law school, the school administration threatened to withdraw funding to the Christian Law Society because they would no longer accept gays and lesbians as members. The law school won at both the trial and appellate levels. The Supreme Court will hear argument on that case in April.
Being a lawyer, I could argue both sides to each of these cases. But when I listen to my feelings, I definitely have opinions on these issues. With the first, I’m totally siding with the father. There are so many other appropriate places and times to protest the government’s policy on gays in the military. Choosing a funeral of a fallen serviceman is ridiculous. It manifests the cruel side of religion that can take a person’s belief and use it to harm others without any guilt. It doesn’t bother me that much that church groups don’t like the U.S. policy. There’s always been prejudice and there always will be. That group is being extremely insensitive in showing a lack of respect for our soldiers and their families. That reverend should write to Congress, appear on Fox News, hold rallies, create a blog, etc. Targeting innocent families just causes so much pain for no reason.
I’ve read some blog entries recently from other mohos who have reduced or eliminated their contact with our Church for various reasons. I understand to an extent and maybe they’ve experienced some of the cruelty that can occur from religion, like the example above, or say the Mountain Meadows massacre, the Holy Crusades, the Inquisition, or Proposition 8. But in my experience, the everyday member is a good person. I have so many great friends because of my affiliation with the Church, who are just trying to do the right thing. The gospel itself is good and does bring the Spirit. It’s just that the Church is run by imperfect people who have prejudices. That’s part of the reason I feel no desire to discuss my attractions for other men with a bishop or anyone else at church for that matter. I don’t need to invoke their prejudices. On the other hand, I love their companionship and their commitment to do what’s right. So I keep attending Church.
Anyway, with the second Supreme Court case, I think that student groups should have say in their membership requirements. I know that the law favors the government only providing monies to organizations that don’t discriminate. That’s almost impossible to enforce. Student groups are not our government, and provide a mechanism for the right to assemble and to speak as a group. Forcing open the memberships is taking the Constitutional protections too far. With both these cases, it’s apparent that sometimes courts see the First Amendment right to free speech as the end all and be all of Constitutional rights. It can be impinged upon to advance other rights, as the right to assemble, the right to privacy, the right to practice one’s religion, etc.
It will be very interesting to see what our highest court does with these two cases.
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