I can’t embed the video of this interview, but check it out at Vivian Paige’s blog. In addition to his response on the viciously homophobic (and generally insane) Westboro Baptist Church’s 1st Amendment rights (or lack thereof), Webb also discusses the Defense Secretary’s decision to shut down JFCOM.
On the first issue, I have mixed feelings, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that this group’s hate speech, despite being utterly despicable, is probably protected under the 1st Amendment. In fact, the only legitimate reason I can think of why it should not be protected stems from the Schenk case, if “the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” If that’s the case with the Westboro Baptist Church, that it makes people so angry that it incites them to violence, then how would the 1st Amendment protect all kinds of speech that we disagree with, find intolerable, feel enraged about, etc? As much as I despise the Westboro Baptist Church and wish I never had to hear from them again, I can’t think of a justification for denying them their 1st Amendment constitutional rights.
On the second issue, I think it’s totally appropriate for the Virginia delegation to ask tough questions of Secretary Gates about his decision. In the end, though, it’s his decision, and I don’t believe the Virginia delegation can do a great deal about it in the end.
P.S. Excellent job by Vivian on this interview, and also on the one with Glenn Nye. Like Webb, Nye argues that the 1st Amendment doesn’t cover the Westboro Baptist Church’s disruption of military funerals, and that JFCOM shouldn’t have been shut down. Your thoughts?
P.P.S. If the Westboro Baptist Church’s hate speech isn’t protected, then I’m not sure how flag burning, Koran burning, bible burning, etc. would be protected either.