Although I am solidly for the First Amendment and against prohibiting anyone from worshipping whomever one chooses and saying whatever one wants, I confess to applauding the Brits for banning hate baiting bigots from entering their shores. A friend forwarded a BBC News Online article about the America-hating, soldier-thrashing, and gay-bashing Westboro Baptist Church mentioned in an earlier post.
Fred Phelps and his spawn Shirley Phelps-Roper were not allowed entry because the UK Border Agency opposes “extremism in all its forms.” According to a spokesperson,
Both these individuals have engaged in unacceptable behavior by inciting hatred against a number of communities. We will continue to stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country. The exclusions policy is targeted at all those who seek to stir up tension and provoke others to violence regardless of their origins and beliefs.
The sociopathic father and daughter team planned on leading protests against the staging of “The Laramie Project” in Queen Mary’s College in Basingstoke, Hampshire.The play is about Matthew Shepard, a college student who was brutally tortured and left to die only because he happened to be gay.
Phelps-Roper warned the British that denying them passage would “bring great wrath upon your heads.” She also taunted the authorities assuring them that other cult members will slither in undetected. “Unless they intend to begin checking the bare backsides of every person coming into that country to find that tattoo that says ‘Property of WBC’ – they will have no way of identifying who is from WBC.”
Now fact of the matter is, freedom of speech in this country is subject to certain exceptions such as defamation or incitement to riot. However, an outright interdict on hate speech is rather controversial, subject to much heated debate and is not likely to pass anytime soon. In contrast,
Canada, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France.
as an article in the New York Times points out.
Having to live with people like the Westboro Phelps is the price we pay for a freedom we jealously protect. Thankfully, a great majority of us are not as hateful and deluded. Most of us stay clear of extremes and if anything, I sense that as a nation, we are tired of all the anger and hate. While a sad few cling on to worn arguments, burdensome ideologies and warped interpretations of religious texts, many are realizing that civilized discourse and respectful coexistence is possible. We simply need to ignore the fanatics and reactionaries screaming at the fringes.
For whatever it’s worth, Westboro Baptist Church was sued for picketing the funeral of a fallen serviceman, lost and is liable for $5 million.