What the HU Queer Press and the Westboro Baptist Church Have in Common

Monday, March 7, 2011 § 2

This morning, a friend linked me to this article, about the decision of Harding University to block HU Queer Press, an online LGBTQ zine, on campus.

I was disgusted by the actions of the administration. Though they have the legal right to block access to the zine on their campus, by exercising that right the administration censored the voices of their students. Simply because David Burks, president of Harding University, found the website to be “offensive and degrading”, he found it right to silence their dissenting opinion.

Earlier this week, I also came across a seemingly unrelated news byte on the Westboro Baptist Church.

Among other things, this hate group masquerading as a church is known for its extreme stance against homosexuality, which includes picketing of military funerals, and desecrating the American flag, both of which tie back to their ridiculous belief that every tragedy in the world is linked to homosexuality.

I find their actions to be incredibly offensive and distasteful, as do most.

But all the same, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled (SCOTUS opinion here) that the 1st Amendment protects the fundamentalist “church" members’ right to protest outside military funerals, despite the ridiculousness of their actions.

The connection between the HU Queer Press and the Westboro Baptist Church is not immediately clear. The Queer Press celebrates all that is LGBTQ, while the Westboro Baptist church attempts to squash all that is queer.

But in both cases, both groups are fighting for their right to freedom of speech – no matter how radically different that speech is.

Freedom of speech is what allows me to write this blog. It’s what allows you to comment, whether that comment is respectful and well thought-out, or hasty and bigoted.

It’s also what allows the Westboro church to picket military funerals, and what allows LGBTQ students at Harding University to publish their zine, even if the administration does choose to block it.

Which is why I support both the right of the HU Queer Press to publish, and the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest.

Simply put, the importance of freedom of speech transcends ideology.

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§ 2 Response to “What the HU Queer Press and the Westboro Baptist Church Have in Common”

  • Kate says:

    I completely agree. While I'm frustrated and angered by the Westboro Baptist Church's protests, I support the Supreme Court's decision. By maintaining freedom of speech, even on something I disagree with, the court is demonstrating that it will continue to value our rights as citizens, regardless of where its beliefs fall somewhere down the line. I do question, though: couldn't the protest be considered a disturbance or peace or something? I certainly wouldn't protest at anyone's funeral, regardless of what I thought of her/his politics.-- Kate H

  • Lovely work here Kyle! I agree with you, the importance of freedom of speech is greater than any one cause or group or idea. I think such freedom is critical to the lives we lead, and I admire you for supporting it despite some of the nastiness that such freedoms can sometimes breed. Personally, it is difficult to comprehend where members of the Westboro Baptist Church are coming from, but despite my opposition to them they do indeed have all the rights that you and I do.

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