The American Civil Liberties Union will back Wichita minister Fred Phelps in his attempt to get Missouri's new funeral protest ban overturned.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in U. S. District Court in Jefferson City, the ACLU says the ban deprives Phelps from being able to exercise his First Amendment right of freedom of speech.
The ACLU is asking that the law be declared unconstitutional and for an injunction to keep it from being enforced.
This is one of those slippery slope questions. Yes, on the face of it how could anyone support a hateful bigot like Phelps? He and his band of demented followers protest at funerals because of what they perceive as the United States' support for gays and lesbians.
Why should the final goodbyes for soldiers who gave their lives for their country be marred by these people?
The answer is simple...they shouldn't be, but a law banning protest was never the proper approach; it was simply a heartfelt, sympathetic reaction on behalf of survivors and veterans. Unfortunately, the law has also served to keep Rev. Phelps in a limelight that should have been mercifully short-lived.
Enforcement of laws already on the books, including trespassing and disturbing the peace, as well as working with law enforcement and veterans groups to help shield the survivors from these lunatics would have been the better way to go.
Though I disagree with the ACLU on some issues, particularly those involving student-led school prayer, the organization sees clearly what its detractors often fail to see. It is a short road from halting speech that we all realize is hateful to simply halting speech with which we disagree.
When critics jump on the ACLU, they often refer to the organization's defense of the American Nazi Party when it asked for a permit to parade in Skokie, Ill., a community with a high proportion of Holocaust survivors in the late 1970s. A Supreme Court ruling gave the Nazis what they wanted...but the rally never took place.
Laws were already on the books to protect grieving family members from Rev. Phelps. The last thing we need is for this man's legacy to include the erosion of the very amendment that makes the U. S. a shining symbol of freedom.