Free speech is a right established in the Constitution of the United States of America. This is a common defense used by the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, the most famous group of protesters, who can be found at many events- from concerts to funerals.
The question arises, however, how far should the right of free speech extend? I have heard this question posed in many journalism classes. The right comes with risks, but at the same time, there are many opportunities for free speech to be used for good.
Recently, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, passed away, but it certainly did not stop the followers from protesting at a Lorde concert. However, as they exercised their free speech, there were other exercising theirs.
Counter-protestors were also present, holding signs with messages for the members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
The signs held simple messages, one of the most shared being a plain sign that said simply, “Sorry for your loss.”
This counter-protest got coverage in the New York Daily News, which spread through social media. Without a right of free speech, this chain of events would have never occurred.
Overall, the founding fathers may not have planned on people taking liberties with the right of Free Speech, but in the end, the results seem to be opportunities for great acts of humanity.
By Aimee Cash; Edited by Wahida Ifat
3 Comments on “Free Speech and Protestors”
Talk about killing them with kindness. I love the counter-protest sign saying, “sorry for your loss.” That is so powerful and clever. I really think free speech is more of a grey area than the constitution has laid out and I think it will continue to evolve with more elastic interpretation. Awesome blog post Aimee!
Great use of current events to address the topic of free speech! I was previously unaware of the counter protest but I think the situation really is an excellent example of individuals exercising their rights in order to stand up for something they believe in. As I mentioned in my comment to Sophia’s post, problems arise when you start to limit individual’s rights to free speech. The (rhetorical) question I posed to her which I think is equally relevant to your post is: “Who is to decide whose voice is heard and whose voice is silenced?”
Thank you for sharing this story!
Aimee, I probably should have read your post before I wrote mine since we touched on the same topic! I think we should extend our right of free speech as far as possible, since it is our right to do so. Some might argue that when you stop stretching a freedom, you run the risk of losing it out of complacency. Unfortunately, that means free speech can be used in terrible ways like with the WBC, but as long as it isn’t illegal then I (and all journalists, since free speech is vital to our profession) should support it.
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