Editorial: Freedom of speech - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Editorial: Freedom of speech

The following is an editorial from FOX6 WBRC-TV General Manager Lou Kirchen, first aired on Thursday, March 10, 2011:

Last week the Supreme Court ruled, 8 to 1, in the Snyder vs. Phelps case upholding the right to picket near the funerals of soldiers who have died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The argument is that because they had not been disruptive, the picketers' right to freedom of speech must be protected.

Have we lost all sense of decency in our society?

Certainly, as general manager of a television station with a large news organization, 1st amendment rights are important to me and vital to our operation.  The right to assemble, to have one's views heard, is an intrinsic part of what it is to be an American…to stand in the town square or the steps of the Capitol, carrying placards and even shouting your point of view, whatever it is.  Exercising that right in a public place is one thing, but, I can't believe that our forefathers intended for that right to invade the privacy of a family mourning the death of their loved one, who had died serving our country…defending the very freedom that gives us and those picketers, the right of free speech.

In the case before the Supreme Court…the picketers were a thousand feet away from the funeral and they weren't loud, so were not seen as disruptive…even though their placards were filled with hate language.  A thousand feet away…is that far enough?  At what point does your right to exercise your freedom of speech, override my right to privacy?  

Full disclosure here…I'm the parent of a career serviceman.  So maybe, I can't see this clearly.  Some might say, "You can't have it both ways"…that is, situational freedom of speech.  For at least one member of the Supreme Court, the answer is not so clear cut.


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