International Burn The Koran Day

September 10, 2010

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[Editor’s note: The Angry Squirrel’s column was originally scheduled for this weekend.  However, he has already been forced the rewrite once because of the fluid nature of this situation, so his article is running today to ensure the timeliness of his writing.  Fiction Friday will occur on Sunday this week.  A new recurring character will be introduced.]

It’s times like these that I always have to remind myself of the five percent doctrine – that no matter what five percent of the population will always be crazy and it is an untreatable disease. Saturday is the ninth anniversary of the attacks on September 11th and dubbed by Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center as International Burn The Koran Day. After much time publicizing the event and recent media attention and backlash from many, the wacko Jones decided to back off and cancel his event. Obviously he was looking for a graceful exit and thanks to figures like the former half term Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin earlier in the day helping him link in his mind a correlation between the community center to be built not even within view of ground zero and his little stunt, he found that out in stating he would was cancelling the event because they had promised to move the center if he cancelled his burning of the Qur’an. Granted, now once the truth be told he had no such agreement, he now is back to praying about the event and it is suspended until he can sort things out.

The gist of it to me seems that the Iman in Florida got him a meeting with the people in NYC about the center and possibly moving it, and he took that to mean they were going to move it, or more likely the case he went ahead and used that as the reason for him to have a further backtrack towards doing the event again since the truth would come out immediately after his announcement. Obviously in my opinion he was like a deer caught in headlights now with all the pressure against him and wanted his way out.

Then again if there was really a ploy from the Iman in Florida and the parties in NYC to get him to cancel it by promising him what he wanted –  which I don’t believe to be the case – I really could not blame them one bit. After all you’ll tell the guy with the gun pointed at you what you think he wants to hear so maybe he’ll lay down his gun and spare you. So even if it was all a ploy on their part, who cares.

But have no fear Pastor Jones, your movement has truly gone national at least – as many supporters of his cause on Facebook and many others across the country have vowed to burn the holy book of the Islamic faith on Saturday. And best of all for Jones an even nuttier Pastor who has a small congregation of hate preaching individuals is taking up the cause, and luckily for Jones and unluckily or the country as a whole these guys don’t know how to back down off of anything.

The Reverend Fred Phelps and his merry band of misfits are taking up the cause now. Here are some excerpts from interviews this evening from the Church’s usual spokesperson, Phelps’ daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper. In talking about Jones cancelling his event she said, “The false prophet Terry Jones caved – like all false prophets do, and like we told you he would.” She the continues to talk about how everything as usual for them will everyone else’s fault and will not be their own, “While you sissy brats browbeat and jockey with the false prophet Terry Jones–pretending like the lives of those soldiers are your political and personal pawns–we will tell you the truth. The blood of the dead soldiers is dripping off the hands of General Petraeus. The blaspheming talking heads (politicians, talk show hosts, false prophets, arrogant Pentagon-perverts) of this nation of proud sinners have put the bulls-eye of God on the backs of these soldiers. Burning the Quran could not possibly imperil your soldiers any more than you have.” Then she goes on about Muslims as well in the interview stating, “It’s time to talk to the false religious systems of the world–we’ll start with the perverted Muslims and their pedophile prophet Muhammad! We will burn your Quran on 9/11/10. To tell the world that the Muslims are the servants of God — and they will bring the final affliction to Israel and the Jews according to the promises of God.”

Now I grew up in Topeka and am quite familiar with Phelps and his clan well before they became an international sensation. They really don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of them and hate everyone under the sun that doesn’t belong to their church. They won’t back down like Jones has seemed to have done so we as a nation and mainly our soldiers abroad will have to pay the consequence for the actions. The blood will be on the radical Christians hands this time around for inciting a worldwide riot of response from their actions.

Man I wonder why whenever I heard Phelps and Jones on the news today I kept having the voice of Bobby Boucher’s mother from the movie The Waterboy going over and over in my head saying “Islam is the Devil.”

Like I said though it will not just be the Phelps’ taking up Jones’ cause now and he may choose to continue to do so himself as well with his original event. Although major media outlets have vowed not to cover images of the actual events that are to take place, it is the modern age of “journalism” and the videos will be up and they’ll spread like wildfire and cause the radicals on the other side to have many International Burn and American days.

That last point is what my main focus of this column this month was going to be (until the recent changes in the event changed how I was going to write this), which is why should outsiders not view Americans or Christians by their worst elements, when Americans and Christians want to judge Muslims by their worst elements.

Why The 1st Amendment Doesn’t Protect Westboro Baptist Church

July 3, 2010

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[Update: on March 2, The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in favor of Phelphs (Westboro’s pastor).  This particular article was written in July of 2010.  An article relating to the SCOTUS ruling will appear on The Soap Boxers in the coming days.]

The Westboro Baptist Church (which has no ties to mainstream Baptist churches) is an organization which spends its time spreading hatred.  The group has gained much of their notoriety for protesting at the funerals of soldiers who have died fighting for their country.  The protesters carry anti-gay signs, which tends to cause a bit of confusion.  A while ago, my wife asked me what the connecion was – since the soldiers, in almost every circumstance, are NOT gay.

Her mistake was trying to apply logic to a situation where none exists.  WBC claims that dead soldiers are God’s punishment for the country’s tolerance of gays.  As someone who is a proponent of equal rights for all, the assertion that the US is tolerant of gays seems to be not particularly accurate.  Certainly, we are not as tolerant as many of our European allies.

This issue has caused me quite a lot of internal conflict.  I am a firm believer that free speech is a very important personal freedom.  However, I also believe that one person’s expression of free speech should not infringe on the rights of another.  While the right to mourn in peace is not granted by the Constitution, it IS granted by the concept of “being a human being.”

I have even gone so far as to wonder if perhaps the 1st Amendment was in need of some revision.  While I believe that the Constitution is a very important document, I also believe that the founders would have wanted this to be more of a “living” document than it has become.  What’s my evidence of this?  The fact that they made ten changes (The Bill of Rights) before the ink was even dry.  223 years later, the total number of amendments stands at just 27 (and the purpose of the 21st was simply to repeal the 18th).

After a bit of searching, I now realize that we don’t need to change the constitution to prevent hate mongers from using it as a shield for their speech.  There is already a restriction in place.  In 1942, in the case of Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire, the United Stated Supreme court unanimously ruled that this sort of speech is not protected.

There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or “fighting words” those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Chaplinksy is going to get another test soon.  WBC protestors were present at the 2006 funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder.  Three months after the funeral, the family sued for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  A jury ruled against WBC and awarded $10.9 million in damages.  In 2009, an appeals court ruled that the WBC’s action were protected by the first amendment and ordered the plaintiff (the dead soldier’s father) to pay WBC’s attorney fees ($16,000).

Not surprisingly, many people have lined up behind the Snyder family.  Political commentator Bill O’Reilly has offered to pick up the tab, and thousands of others have pledge donations.

The US Supreme Court has granted certiorari to the case of Snyder vs. Phelps (Fred Phelps is the head of WBC) and the case will be on the docket when the Court convenes in the fall.

The list of people filing amicus (“friends of the court”) briefs is a who’s who of political bigwigs, including 43 US Senators and the Attorneys General of all but two states (Maine and Virginia).  It is my hope that the Court will rule in favor of the Snyder family and further clarify and reinforce the thoughts first addressed by Chaplinsky.

While we wait for the decision of the Court, the Patriot Guard Riders are not standing idly by.  Members of this motorcycle organization gather at the funerals of veterans (at the request of the family) and rev their engines in an effort to drown out the protestors.