The Westboro Baptist Church, well-known for its protests of military funerals, posted a news release on its website on Saturday letting America know that the controversial organization planned on protesting the funerals of the Tucson shooting victims, including that of 9-year-old Christina Green. The release proclaimed “Thank God for the shooter – 6 dead! WBC will picket their funerals!” The Westboro Baptist Church seemingly believes that Jared Loughner was sent by God to punish America (particularly the government) for its “sins” against the Westboro Baptist Church.
This news came at a time when Americans were already feeling shocked, stunned, and disgusted after the violent actions of gunman Jared Loughner. So of course many were even more appalled to see the Westboro Church attack Christina Greene and her family for being Catholic on its website, calling her a “ruined” child for her religion. However, the peaceful way that lawmakers and Tucson citizens came together in an effort to allow her family to mourn in peace in the midst of this shocking hate speech is truly remarkable and inspiring.
Some Tucson citizens planned an “angel action,” where volunteers would don giant angel wings and peacefully stand in front of the Westboro Baptist Church protesters to shield mourners from their hateful signs (a similar strategy worked at the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, where a peaceful “human buffer” blocked off the outnumbered Westboro Baptist Church protesters).
But while Tucson citizens were coming up with their own peaceful solutions, Arizona lawmakers were rushing to get a law passed that would require the Westboro Baptist Church protesters to stay at least 300 feet away from the funerals one hour before they start, during the funerals, and one hour after they end. The law was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer and approved on Tuesday night.
This peaceful way to deal with hate speech comes at a time when America is dealing with plenty of “vitriol.” Sherriff Clarence Dupnik referred to Arizona as “the mecca for prejudice and bigotry,” but yet many in the state have come together and proved that problems can be solved quickly and peacefully when politics are set aside for the common good.
So perhaps during this time, when so many continue to play the blame game or argue over things like gun rights and political rhetoric, Americans should all step back and take a look at what can be done to prevent the abuse of rights like that of free speech and the right to bear arms when their differences are set aside.
And while people like Loughner and the members of the Westboro Baptist Church will seemingly always be around to incite anger, grief, and sadness in America, perhaps Christina Green’s father put it best when talking about the terrible tragedy that befell his daughter:
“This shouldn’t happen in this country or anywhere else, but in a free society, we’re going to be subject to people like this. So I prefer this to the alternative.”