Dispatches from the Creation Wars

DaveScot and the ACLU

In a new post, DaveScot criticizes the ACLU for suing the state of Kentucky over a new law banning protests at military funerals. As usual, he gets the facts wrong and misses the point. The mistakes begin with the title of his post: “ACLU Supports Vile Protesters at Military Funerals.” Nonsense. They don’t support the protestors any more than they supported the Nazis in Skokie, or support Rush Limbaugh, or support Jerry Falwell. What they support is the idea of free speech, regardless of the content of that speech. And in this particular case, they aren’t challenging such regulations across the board, they’re challenging the particular wording of these regulations as being overly broad and prone to abuse. Are they right? I don’t know, I haven’t read the law in question. But I do know that it’s unreasonable to claim that they support the message rather than the right to give it.

My own feelings on such laws are very mixed. On the one hand, few things in the world make me more angry than Fred Phelps and his band of evil idiots. I despise them as thoroughly as humanly possible. If they showed up to protest at the funeral of someone I love, someone would likely have to pull me off one of them before I stopped swinging. But I’m also a staunch advocate of free speech, even when it is calculated to be as offensive as possible. And there is a middle ground, of course. One can be for time, place and manner restrictions and still support a general right to free speech. Intellectually, I’m not sure such restrictions are a good idea and I don’t know that I’d vote for them; on the other hand, I can’t get too fired up to fight against them either. So I’m willing to respect both sides on this one.


But here’s my question for Dave and those who criticize the ACLU for their position: where were you when Phelps and the rest of these jerks were just protesting the funerals of gay people? Years before they decided to protest military funerals, they were protesting at the funerals of gay people, holding signs that said, “God created AIDS” and yelling “Your son is in hell” to the parents of the deceased. And we heard not one peep from any of the people who are now so outraged at the protest of military funerals. Not a single law was passed or even suggested in any state legislature anywhere in the nation. And most of the laws that have been passed still single out only military funerals for such protection. Civilian funerals are still fair game in most states. I find such selective outrage quite telling, and highly hypocritical.

Also fascinating is the ignorance of the commenters. Mats writes:

Since when the ACLU stands for freedom of expression? What a sad joke.

The sad joke is how successfully the religious right has managed to thoroughly distort the record of the ACLU. They have always supported freedom of expression, including for Christians. I’ve listed and provided links to dozens of cases around the country where the ACLU has defended street preachers, churches, religious groups and students in cases where their rights were violated. In several cases, they’ve defended the rights of the very people who lie about their record (they’ve defended Jerry Falwell in court not once, but twice, yet Falwell still lies about their position constantly).

Comments

  1. #1 Raging Bee
    May 26, 2006

    Free speech should not mean that basic rules of manners are out the window. Publicly saying that homosexuality is wrong is one thing; but taunting and jeering people at a funeral (military or not) is on the order of “fighting words,” and should not be condoned. In fact, the state has a compelling interest in preventing such provocations.

    PS: if you choose to kick any ass over this, don’t expect me to do anything other than cheer you on or help you. I don’t approve of street-fighting, but I approve even less of people deliberately provoking hatred and expecting the state to protect their sorry asses. The Phelps clan need a lesson in manners, and sometimes, a good beating is the only way to teach such lessons.

  2. #2 Martin Grant
    May 26, 2006

    >if they showed up to protest at the funeral of someone I love, someone would likely have to pull me off one of them before I stopped swinging.

    Why say that? Why not instead say this?

    “If they depicted the prophet Mohammed, whom I revere and love, in a very offensive way, then I’d threaten or even worse assault them.”

    I personally can’t condone violence in response to speech regardless of what is said. I can understand feeling emotional at certain times about certain issues (We’re human, not vulcan). However if it was possible to ever provoke me into such a response, I think once I was calmed I’d admit I was wrong and accept the consequences. But I both hope and expect that I’d be able to control myself; and I certainly wouldn’t preemptively threaten violence, which you seem to be doing here.

  3. #3 Gretchen
    May 26, 2006

    Free speech should not mean that basic rules of manners are out the window.

    Free speech and basic rules of manners have nothing to do with each other. Manners are good to have whether you have free speech or not, and no legal code regulating speech should exist to ensure (or bar) the use of manners.

  4. #4 sdanielmorgan
    May 26, 2006

    DaveScot and his band of cronies ought to be ignored as much as possible. Note that although Ed kindly links to them, they never return the favor. Then again, Ed may actually be employing the logic, “sunlight as a disinfectant”. Hmmm, tough one…to link, or not to link? Do they deserve some of Ed’s hard-earned traffic? Or is it more that their stupidities ought to be appreciated by as wide an audience as possible?

    Considering that they regularly erase entire posts, put up KKK cartoons which get pulled, and put up fraudulent claims that are begged off as “so it’s wrong, what’s your point?” I just don’t think reason will ever get through to DS and his ilk.

    Poor bastards.

  5. #5 Evil Bender
    May 26, 2006

    I agree that restrictions on free speech, even the “time, manner, and place” ones often cited, are dangerous. Which is why I’m pleased to see this case go to court. Traditionally the courts have upheld only very narrow limitations on where free speech is barred, and under what circumstances it may be shut down completely (disruptive speech, etc). It will be interesting to see what the court says on one of the batch of anti-picketing laws.

  6. #6 tacitus
    May 26, 2006

    Ed, you fail to mention that the only reason DaveScot has started posting rants against the ACLU is to cover up his recent embarrassment over being caught with his pants down over the fake anti-ACLU story concerning the US Marine Corps.

    Funny thing is that even Demski’s acolytes are becoming fed up with him, wanting the blog to stick to ID-related issues. DaveScot’s reponse? That of a petulent teenager–It’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.

  7. #7 Steve Reuland
    May 26, 2006

    Here’s a more accurate headline:

    “Religious Right Creationists Stage Vile Protests at Military Funerals”

    Can you imagine what Dembski and DaveScot would say if Fred Phelps or some other doucebag were pulling their crap in the name of secularism? They don’t hesitate to denounce all non-creationists when a fictional character makes some silly statement about how the presumed meaninglessness of life relaxes all moral standards, but when someone on their side commits the most despicable acts possible, the tendency to over-generalize is suddenly forgotten about.

  8. #8 Steve Reuland
    May 26, 2006

    Here’s a more accurate headline:

    “Religious Right Creationists Stage Vile Protests at Military Funerals”

    Can you imagine what Dembski and DaveScot would say if Fred Phelps or some other doucebag were pulling their crap in the name of secularism? They don’t hesitate to denounce all non-creationists when a fictional character makes some silly statement about how the presumed meaninglessness of life relaxes all moral standards, but when someone on their side commits the most despicable acts possible, the tendency to over-generalize is suddenly forgotten about.

  9. #9 BigDumbChimp
    May 26, 2006

    Ed, you fail to mention that the only reason DaveScot has started posting rants against the ACLU is to cover up his recent embarrassment over being caught with his pants down over the fake anti-ACLU story concerning the US Marine Corps.

    Funny thing is that even Demski’s acolytes are becoming fed up with him, wanting the blog to stick to ID-related issues. DaveScot’s reponse? That of a petulent teenager–It’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.

    Yeah I noticed this yesterday. He just posted up articles without any commentary from himself. Like he had found some golden ticket to absolution over his obvious display of stupidity and needed to show it off to the UD denziens. Sad but pretty damn funny.

    Unfortunately the topics he chose for the articles, not funny.

  10. #10 BigDumbChimp
    May 26, 2006

    Sorry to follow up post so quickly but this cracked me up.

    Check out DaveScot’s reply to a comment on his falsehoods.

    The ACLU is being perfectly reasonable here and in most cases (some are just as waste of time, like the San Diego cross). You’re just trying to get mileage of of misrepresenting and smearing them because this story happens to include the word “military” in it. Didn’t you just get through posting proven falsehoods about the ACLU and the military and then not apologizing?

    I corrected it to reflect the probable facts. -ds

    “probable facts”

  11. #11 BigDumbChimp
    May 26, 2006

    Sorry to follow up so soon after my last post but check out DaveScot’s response to a commenter calling him on trying to cover up his previous blunder with the ACLU email.

    The ACLU is being perfectly reasonable here and in most cases (some are just as waste of time, like the San Diego cross). You’re just trying to get mileage of of misrepresenting and smearing them because this story happens to include the word “military” in it. Didn’t you just get through posting proven falsehoods about the ACLU and the military and then not apologizing?

    I corrected it to reflect the probable facts. -ds

  12. #12 BigDumbChimp
    May 26, 2006

    Sorry to follow up so soon after my last post but check out DaveScot’s response to a commenter calling him on trying to cover up his previous blunder with the ACLU email.

    The ACLU is being perfectly reasonable here and in most cases (some are just as waste of time, like the San Diego cross). You’re just trying to get mileage of of misrepresenting and smearing them because this story happens to include the word “military” in it. Didn’t you just get through posting proven falsehoods about the ACLU and the military and then not apologizing?

    I corrected it to reflect the probable facts. -ds

    “probable facts”

  13. #13 BigDumbChimp
    May 26, 2006

    ugh, sorry for the mess. Errors were generated …

  14. #14 Jim Anderson
    May 26, 2006

    The biker counter-protests are a great way to battle speech with more speech–and burliness.

  15. #15 Leni
    May 26, 2006

    Ed wrote:

    Years before they decided to protest military funerals, they were protesting at the funerals of gay people, holding signs that said, “God created AIDS” and yelling “Your son is in hell” to the parents of the deceased.

    That’s what rankles me so much about this law. When it was just a bunch of dead faggots no one cared. But the military? Unthinkable! I can’t swallow the idea that some recipients of *Phelpsian* abuse are more protected than others.
    I’m tempted to say that in itself should be reason enough to be against the law, if not strike it down altogether. (Maybe there is some precedent for restricting it to military funerals, I don’t know. I’m guessing there isn’t.)

    It also makes me somewhat uncomfortable that these are in effect protests against a government policy (however misplaced and vile). That doesn’t sit well with me at all. If I were feeling more cynical I might even think that it was more about that than it is about protecting the deceased’s families.

  16. #16 WJD
    May 26, 2006

    One can be for time, place and manner restrictions and still support a general right to free speech.

    That’s me. I am a staunch supporter of free speech, but I have no problem at all with this type of restriction as long as it is implemented in a reasonable way. Illinois’ version, the “Let Them Rest In Peace” Act, bans protests within 300 feet of the funeral, for a period from 30 minutes prior to 30 minutes after, and if I recall, applies to any funeral, not just military ones. The way I see it, this is balancing the free speech rights of some against the privacy and religious rights of others.

  17. #17 nicole
    May 26, 2006

    It also makes me somewhat uncomfortable that these are in effect protests against a government policy (however misplaced and vile).

    I get what you’re saying here, but is this really true? Nothing I have ever read or heard Phelps & Co. say suggests that they are anti-Iraq war. I’ve been more under the impression that they’re just using the war (ie high-profile military funerals) as a platform for anti-gay raving. They don’t seem to want to stop the deaths of more soldiers, on the contrary, they revel in these deaths because then they can say, “See, America deserves this, this is God’s wrath.”

  18. #18 Skemono
    May 27, 2006

    Nothing I have ever read or heard Phelps & Co. say suggests that they are anti-Iraq war. I’ve been more under the impression that they’re just using the war (ie high-profile military funerals) as a platform for anti-gay raving. They don’t seem to want to stop the deaths of more soldiers, on the contrary, they revel in these deaths because then they can say, “See, America deserves this, this is God’s wrath.”

    Speifically, America deserves this because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. We allowed gays into the military, therefore God hates our military. I don’t know for sure if that’s what Leni was referring to, of course.

  19. #19 Leni
    May 27, 2006

    I think Nicole’s right in that it isn’t really about the war. But that’s not actually what I was talking about, since I’d forgotten that it was about gays when I wrote that.

    But in a broader context, any government policy that would protect gays from discrimmination (or like Skemono says, allow them to serve so long as they stay in the closet) is fair game.

  20. #20 nicole
    May 27, 2006

    But in a broader context, any government policy that would protect gays from discrimmination (or like Skemono says, allow them to serve so long as they stay in the closet) is fair game.

    Ah, okay, so the “government policy” you referred to in your previous post was anti-discrimination? That makes much more sense, I just assumed you meant they were protesting the war.

    Of course, I’m sure it’s hardly possible to get inside these people’s heads, considering the serious amount of crazy that resides there. I saw one of them once on Hannity and Colmes, a woman, and it was actually really difficult to follow anything she was saying. By end I had hardly any idea what her point actually was, it was truly strange.

  21. #21 Leni
    May 29, 2006

    Nicole wrote:

    Ah, okay, so the “government policy” you referred to in your previous post was anti-discrimination? That makes much more sense, I just assumed you meant they were protesting the war.

    Just to be clear, in the first post I was talking about the war, because I had stupidly forgotten their protests were about gays. It just ended up not mattering because they are protesting policies(as Skemono pointed out), just not the one I was thinking about at the time I wrote that first post.

    As much as I’d like to blame the confusion on the craziness of the Phelps clan, alas I can’t.

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