Is this the way to protest?

The right of Americans to have free speech has been debated recently. Some have been arguing that this right is inviolate and has no boundaries. But even in places where it can be exercised, are there times and places and even methods of speech that are inappropriate? Can expressing yourself wind up being counter-productive to your reason for speaking?

Somehow, someway, I take on this subject by bringing up the Westboro Baptist Church, HGTV almost-hosts Jason and David Benham, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and football. Yes, they all have something in common; the First Amendment.

Mentioned links:

Westboro Baptist Church [Wikipedia]

Snyder v. Phelps [Wikipedia]

Episode 76: Brendan and the Benhams; The Intolerant “Tolerance Police” Claim Their Next Victim

2 Killed, 29 Wounded In Chicago Weekend Shootings

Oh, and I dare you to try not to stand for this:

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Show transcript

Does the Westboro Baptist Church have First Amendment free speech rights? Of course they do. It doesn’t matter that you disagree with what they might have to say, they have the right to say it. Well, some people seem to think that so-called “hate speech” isn’t protected by the First Amendment, but 8 Supreme Court justices have said otherwise, ruling in favor of Fred Phelps and his church in 2011.

Westboro has exercised its rights in venues that many would consider inappropriate with their “God hates fags” signs. (Just a side note; he doesn’t, in the sense that he loves all of his creation.) They contend that things like 9/11, terrorism, and war deaths are due to God’s anger over homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Now, I will say that I believe, as Christianity has believed for a couple thousand years, that homosexual acts are a sin, and that same-sex “marriage” isn’t marriage as God intended (or at least shouldn’t have been imposed on the entire nation by the aforementioned Supreme Court). I think the Westboro crowd would agree with that, but the difference is that their methods of saying this, and the places in which they decide to say it, are changing few, if any, minds. There are better places, times, and methods to get their point across.

Also, your First Amendment right can get you in trouble, in spite of that freedom. If you say inappropriate things at work, for example, you can be fired. There have been examples where certain tweets on a company or organization’s Twitter account has gotten them fired. Your free speech rights can be restricted by your employer.

Just ask Jason and David Benham. I’ve talked about their situation before, back in May of 2014. They had a potential TV series lined up on the HGTV channel where they would fix up dilapidated homes for families in need. However, when David Benham dared to affirm the aforementioned idea that Christians have held for 2 millennia, HGTV cancelled the show before it started. Regardless of what you think of that, it was their right.

(Oh, and try exercising your Second Amendment right at many work places! But I digress.)

Keep that in mind. The free speech right that you and I have can be expressed in appropriate places, times, and via appropriate methods, or they can be inappropriate. Westboro is the poster child for inappropriateness, and the Benhams know what happens when your employer cans you for speech, even outside of the job.

So then, where am I going with this?

Last week, a bunch of guys knelt down in protest. No one – let me say that again – no one at all, who was part of the high profile reaction to this, ever once suggested that those guys did not have the right to do this. The Left tried to make that the issue, but that is not the issue. I think we can all agree, both Left and Right, on the idea that everyone has freedom of speech.

Recently, many NFL players, and even some coaches and owners, took a knee during the national anthems of their games. This was in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, who did so to protest the killing of blacks by white police officers. How much of a problem that is versus so many other issues, I’m not going to get into. I’ve covered that before. The question is, is that an appropriate time, place, and method to protest that cause?

The national anthem and the display of the flag are, in part, to honor those who died to, among other things, protect our free speech right, even to sit or take a knee during its playing and display. We agree on that. Sitting or taking a knee may be construed to be disrespectful of that sacrifice (though, again, a protected right). How does using your free speech right to disrespect people who died to protect that right show that you care about blacks killed by cops? The issue people have is that taking that particular time, place, and method to protest is extremely inappropriate.

Should the kneelers be fined or suspended? Some people think so, but if anyone tried to do that, of course, they’d be attacked, and probably called “racist”, even though the NFL has the right to do it. Fines and suspensions are reserved for the really serious problems, like end zone celebration dances, or not speaking to the press after a game. The NFL already restricts free speech with its employees. That’s their right.

Kaepernick and the others should be grateful that they live in a country that, for all its flaws (including the flaw that Kaepernick himself protests), has made such great strides towards it ideals. And that’s what patriotism means. It honors the ideals of a country, even if the country doesn’t live up to them all the time. Protesting at a moment of patriotism is, to me, completely counterproductive. Nationalism, on the other hand, is more of a “my country, right or wrong” mentality. That’s what we should discourage. Patriotism celebrates, among other things, the fact that you can speak up when you believe your country’s wrong. That’s why we find the time and place of the protest inappropriate.

What has gotten lost in all of this is the charity work that Kaepernick has done. He’s donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to all sorts of groups that help the disadvantaged and the needy. That’s how things get changed. For all the publicity that “taking a knee” got, no shooting was stopped by any of it. That same weekend, 2 were killed and 29 were wounded just in Chicago. Kneeling in protest didn’t change that.

And meanwhile, elsewhere in the country, a Christian baker, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop is going to the Supreme Court to try to protect his freedom of speech. I guess when I said that we all can agree that everyone has free speech, that needed to come with a caveat. Again, for the Left, it’s all about politics.

Filed under: Free SpeechGovernment