Monday, February 28, 2005
Freedom of speech: A Philadelphia judge last week dismissed criminal charges against four antigay activists who were arrested at a gay and lesbian street festival.
In dismissing the case, which attracted national attention, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe said that the demonstrators simply had been exercising their First Amendment rights.
Calling the United States "one of the very few countries that protect unpopular speech," Dembe said that the Supreme Court has ruled that the antagonistic reaction of a crowd, even a possible riot, is not reason enough to arrest speakers in a public setting.
"We cannot stifle speech because we don't want to hear it or we don't want to hear it now," Dembe said.
Good for Judge Dembe. However, having said that, you're not going to change people's hearts by holding signs, yelling and screaming at a street festival. Such action is counterproductive and not a good demonstration of God's love.
Contrast Dembe's proper decision in Philadelphia with pro-life protestors standing silently holding signs outside an abortion clinic (not blocking access). That's an act that the Supreme Court has ruled is criminal.
Hateful, inciteful speech is protected, but political speech -- see McCain-Feingold -- is less protected, and anti-abortion speech has practically no protection at all.
Confused? To re-emphasize the post below, it's not the Supreme Court's conservatives who are muddying the waters.