The Instigator
adealornodeal
Con (against)
Winning
28 Points
The Contender
alpaca
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points

Pastor Fred Phelps should have the right to picket funerals.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 8 votes the winner is...
adealornodeal
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/12/2010 Category: News
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,780 times Debate No: 13353
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (8)

 

adealornodeal

Con

Resolved: Pastor Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church should have the right to picket funerals.

Clarification points:
- Funeral picketing refers to the ongoing controversy surrounding Pastor Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church's practice of picketing the funerals of dead American soldiers.
- The debate should focus on the issues debated in Supreme Court Case Snyder v. Phelps. These issues include whether or not the Constitution protects the right to picket and where the line should be drawn for the right to freedom of speech.

I will let my opponent begin this debate by presenting his case.
alpaca

Pro

To start off, I'd like to thank my opponent, adealornodeal for challenging me to this debate. However, with this topic, the title is misleading, and instead it should read 'Pastor Fred HAS The Right to Picket Funerals.'

I would like to start this debate by defining 'has the right to' as "an abstract idea of that which is due to a person or governmental body by law or tradition or nature"

As a framework, I state that Fred Phelps is legally allowed to picket the funerals, and to win this debate the opposition has to prove that by law, Fred Phelps is not allowed to picket these funerals. This debate shall not focus around morality; proving what Fred Phelps does is immoral should not affect the round.

Contention 1: The First Amendment
Under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, it states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This directly applies to Fred Phelps, since by 'picketing' the funerals of dead soldiers," he is effectively gathering with his fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, speaking out against the funeral of the soldier, and publishing what he and his church have done. This does not at all violate the first amendment, and therefore by law, Fred Phelps does have the right to picket funerals.

Contention 2: Fred Phelps is a law-abiding citizen
On May 26th of 2009, former president George W. Bush signed a law called the 'Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act' which prevented protests within 300 feet (91 m) of the entrance of any cemetery under control of the National Cemetery Administration from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral. Violating this law will result in a hefty fine of up to $100,000 and 1 year in imprisonment. Even though the law was signed into effect in response to Fred Phelps's picketing acts, Fred Phelps abides by this rule, and instead he and his church followers picket the funeral from outside the gates of the cemetery. He is not breaking the law in any way, shape, or form.

And therefore, for these two reasons, as a judge, I strongly urge an affirmative vote on today's ballot. I look forward to a good debate.
Debate Round No. 1
adealornodeal

Con

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate. I look forward to an interesting discussion.
My opponent is right that the resolution should read: "Pastor Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church HAVE the right to picket funerals", not "should have".

To save characters, I will refer to Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church simply as the Phelps.

Framework:

The Phelps fall into a crack in the system where their actions are protected by some laws, but in violation of others. This debate's purpose is to 1) analyze these laws and judge which ones have greater value in this controversy, thus deciding if his actions are legal or not.

We must make the framework more inclusive to have a more substantive debate. Morality arguments are necessary to keep in mind because without them, no controversy would exist, and we would not be having this debate. I'm sure my opponent and I both agree that the actions of the Phelpses are immoral, and thus the pro does not have to defend the Phelps's actions; he only must prove they are legal. The burden is on the pro to refute all of the laws I have chosen, for if the con proves that the Phelpses picketing violates even one law, then they do NOT have the right to picket.

Contention 1: First Amendment

Consider Contention 1 both a constructive for the con and a rebuttal to the pro's contention. You can consider all of my contentions as rebuttals to my opponent's second contention.

1A: First Amendment

The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Thus, the First Amendment protects both the Phelpses right to freedom of speech but also the right of funeral attendees to peacefully assemble. My opponent states that this gives Fred Phelps the right to "picket funerals". However, picketing funerals is different from "freedom of speech", as it tends to have catastrophic repercussions. We'll examine these in the following subpoints.

1B: Phelps presence violates "peaceful assembly".

The official court Supreme Court documents released from the Snyder v. Phelps case state that Phelps "knew that the funeral was at a Catholic church and consequently targeted the Snyder family by bringing and flaunting a sign that stated "Pope in Hell". Furthermore, Phelps "knew that their presence could elicit violence… Law enforcement determined that the Phelps' presence created a credible threat of violence. In this regard, local law enforcement deployed a SWAT team and a command post was established. Additionally, the fire department, ambulances, and miscellaneous government equipment were in the area on standby to prepare for the violence associated with Phelps' presence." [1]

1C: A Clear and Present Danger

In the 1919 Supreme Court case Schenk v. United States, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated that "speech could be punished ‘if the words are used in such circumstances and of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substansive evils that Congress has a right to prevent." [2]

The actions of the Phelps, as shown in 1B, poses a very "clear and present danger" not only to themselves, but also to the mourners are the funerals and to local residents. Christopher McKinney of The Retriver Weekly writes, compares funeral picketing "to yelling fire in a movie theater; doing so inspires chaos and panic, and innocent people can be injured or even killed." [3]

The Phelps knowingly picket funerals with the intent of causing such controversy. Because these actions pose a threat to local residents, they are illegal in the United States.

Contention 2: Invasion of Privacy

"Non-public individual has a right to privacy from: a) intrusion on one's solitude or into one's private affairs; b) public disclosure of embarrassing private information; c) publicity which puts him/her in a false light to the public." [5]. The actions of the Phelpses clearly invades the privacy of each and every member, of every family, at every funeral procession that they have protested in the past decade. This once again makes his actions illegal.

Contenion 3: Hate Speech

Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication which disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race or sexual orientation. [6] The message the Phelps seek to spread through their protests are nothing but hate speech – which is illegal in the United States.

Contention 4: Harassment

When asked whether he thought the Phelpses actions were legal under the First Amendment, Tod Robberson of Dallas News stated, "I strongly disagree. This is not free speech. It's harassment. The Times likens Phelps's protests to the Nazi Party's right to march or Hustler Magazine's right to publish pornography. But this is an inaccurate comparison. If Phelps were standing in his Westboro Baptist Church yelling "God hates f*gs" at the top of his lungs, I would defend his right to do so. If he wanted to publish those remarks in a Nazi porn magazine, I would defend his right to do so. But he is deliberately trying to desecrate military funeral processions to make his statement, essentially forcing law-abiding people to reroute their trip to bury fallen soldiers in order to avoid these deliberate insults. There's a fundamental difference between this and free speech." [4]

[1] http://www.scotusblog.com...
[2] http://law.jrank.org...
[3] http://www.retrieverweekly.com...
[4] http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com...
[5] http://definitions.uslegal.com...
[6] Nockleby, John T. (2000), "Hate Speech," in E
alpaca

Pro

For this round, I will refute my opponent's case.

Contention 1A: First Amendment
My opponent states that "picketing funerals is different from "freedom of speech", as it tends to have catastrophic repercussions." However, there are no 'catastrophic' repercussions, which I shall explain and refute.

Contention 1B: Phelps presence violates "peaceful assembly"
I will interpret my opponent's contention 1B as referring to violence that Fred Phelps causes. "Peaceful assembly" would mean that no one gets physically hurt. In this specific case, Phelps does not cause physical violence. While my opponent quotes that "Phelps knew that their presence could elicit violence" and security measures were made, but in the entire funeral picketing session, not a single person was physically harmed. Therefore, this contention is invalid, as my opponent focuses this contention around physical violence. His assemblies are legal.

Contention 1C: A Clear and Present Danger
My opponent brings up the example of the 1919 Supreme Court Case Schenck v. United States. However, while the supreme court's job is to interpret the constitution, there is no exact law stating that hate speech is illegal. My opponent's framework states that what Fred Phelps is doing is illegal under law, but if there is no law explicitly stating this, it can't be illegal. Therefore this contention is invalid.

Contention 2: Invasion of Privacy
My opponent quotes, "Non-public individual has a right to privacy from: a) intrusion on one's solitude or into one's private affairs; b) public disclosure of embarrassing private information; c) publicity which puts him/her in a false light to the public." I will define intrusion as "the act of intruding or the state of being intruded; especially : the act of wrongfully entering upon, seizing, or taking possession of the property of another"[1]. Fred Phelps is clearly not intruding these funerals, as he is outside the funeral home, and is abiding by the Respect for Fallen Heroes act. Therefore, he is not directly intruding on the private affair, if he was protesting right next to the funeral, it would be considered an invasion of privacy, but that is clear not the case with Fred Phelps.

Contention 3: Hate Speech
The United States federal government and state governments are broadly forbidden by the First Amendment of the Constitution from restricting speech.[2] Therefore, the Fred Phelps protests are 100% legal, since the federal government cannot restrict what he is saying, by the law created in Gitlow v. New York in 1925.

Contention 4: Harassment
My opponent quotes that what Fred Phelps is doing is not considered free speech, and is considered harassment. I define 'harass' as "exhaust by attacking repeatedly". This is not what Fred Phelps is doing; He is voicing his own opinion, not 'exhausting by attacking repeatedly'[3]. He is not directly 'attacking' these soldiers. He is using his right to free speech advantageously. All in all, this means that Fred Phelps is not harassing the families of the dead soldiers, and therefore what he is doing is legal, by law.

Therefore, I strong urge a vote for the Pro Side, as I have refuted all of my opponent's points, and instead strengthened mine.

Cites:
[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
[2] Gitlow v. New York (1925)
[3] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...
Debate Round No. 2
adealornodeal

Con

I will use this round to extend my case. Remember that it is the burden of the pro to prove that the Phelps picketing funerals is not illegal in any way.

Contention 1A: First Amendment

I will defend this point by refuting my opponent's responses.

Contention 1B: Peaceful Assembly

My opponent defines "peaceful assembly" as assembly where nobody is "physically hurt". However, disturbing the "peaceful assembly" at a funeral is much more than physical pain; it's emotional distress. The definition of peace, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, is "freedom from disturbance". Imagine that you are trying to study "in peace", but your neighbor is blasting loud music. This is "disturbing the peace", and is thus likened to picketing at a funeral. One attends a funeral to honor the dead "in peace" – not to read hate speech on the signs of protesters as to why their child will burn in hell. My opponent will try to respond to this by saying that under this definition, any unintended disturbance should be rendered illegal. However, I will pre-empt his response by stating that only an intended disturbance is illegal. Thus, because the Phelpses protests intentionally disrupt peaceful assembly, the pickets are illegal.

Contention 1C: A Clear and Present Danger

My opponent's response makes no sense. He states that "If there is no law explicitly stating this, it can't be illegal" and that the Supreme Court must interpret the Constitution. Well, the Supreme Court ruled in 1919 that ‘if the words are used in such circumstances and of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substansive evils that Congress has a right to prevent." Christopher McKinney of The Retriver Weekly compares funeral picketing "to yelling ‘fire' in a movie theater; doing so inspires chaos and panic, and innocent people can be injured or even killed." It's clear that the "words used" by Phelps – such as "God Hates America", "God Hates F@gs", "Pope in Hell", etc – are meant to do naught but cause chaos and anger, and thus are a "clear and present danger" and are illegal.

Contention 2: Invasion of Privacy

I find it funny that my opponent tries to prove that Phelps does not intrude on funeral processions, as that is exactly what the Phelps aim to do with their protests. The Phelps break the law in two ways. 1), they intrude "on one's solitude and into one's private affairs." The Phelps are clearly uninvited to these funerals and attend for the sole purpose of invading the family's privacy. There is no refuting this point; if they intended to "protest peacefully", they would do so from Westboro County in Kentucky. By flying out to funerals nationwide, (they picket one funeral every day, and have done so for a decade), it's clear that their sole intent is to invade the privacy of these families.

2) Second, they invade the privacy of these families by giving them "publicity which puts him/her in a false light to the public". The Phelps try to achieve this with their posters filled with hate speech about why the children of these families will go to hell.

Contention 3: Hate Speech

The case of Matthew Shephard, a 21-year-old student from the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tied to a fence, and killed, for being gay, is touted as a prime example of hate crime in the United States. We must remember that hate crimes don't need to be physical; hate speech is a type of hate crime. Just this past month, two students on the east coast committed suicide due to hate speech. My opponent responds to this by stating that First Amendment forbids the restriction of speech; simply put, that is false, because any speech "which disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race or sexual orientation" is regarded as hate speech and is illegal.

Contention 4: Harassment

My opponent states that harassment is actions that ""exhaust by attacking repeatedly". He naively states that Phelps is "not directly 'attacking' these soldiers". I have numerous responses to this.

1)My opponent clearly hasn't done his homework. The Phelps have picketed a funeral or staged a protest once a day for almost a decade. This is a PERFECT example of "exhaust by attacking repeatedly."
2)The Phelps are definitely "directly attacking" these soldiers. They go to their FUNERALS in order to do so. Like Tod Robberson of Dallas News stated, "If Phelps were standing in his Westboro Baptist Church yelling "God hates f*gs" at the top of his lungs, I would defend his right to do so." However, Phelps is going to funerals DIRECTLY to attack the families of soldiers.
3)Finally, these pickets should be illegal for one more reason; they don't even target the correct group. In the case of Snyder v. Phelps, Lance Snyder was a soldier who died in Iraq whose funeral was picketed by the Phelps. But Lance was not gay. The Phelps believe that since the US is tolerant towards gays, God punishes the US by killing our soldiers, thus making it the Phelps's duty to picket the funerals of dead soldiers. Do soldiers who died in the line of duty to protect American citizens – like the Phelps – deserve such a dishonorable funeral? Not only are the Phelps "directly attacking" by picketing funerals, they are directly attacking the WRONG people, thus making their actions ever more illegal.

The Phelps violate the First Amendment by disturbing peaceful assembly. They are a "clear and present danger" whenever they protest, and it's only a matter of time before violence arises from their protests. They invade the privacy of grieving families, and disturb the peace in the local towns. They use illicit hate speech to spread their message. Finally, they harass these grieving families, by "repeatedly" protesting funerals around the United States on a daily basis. When it's clear that so many laws have been violated by the actions of the Phelps, I can only see a con vote in this debate.
alpaca

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent, for opening my eyes to this topic. It was truly a great debate, but with his framework there is no possible way for the pro-side to win, due to his framework, which requires me to prove he doesn't violate a single law. Therefore, I concede to his points, as there are no adequate refutations to his points. Once again, thank you for an entertaining debate.
Debate Round No. 3
adealornodeal

Con

I would like to thank my opponent for this exciting debate. I urge a vote for the con.
alpaca

Pro

Thank you for such an interesting debate, I look forward to debating you again.
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by alpaca 3 years ago
alpaca
How would I have countered his framework; Logically it makes sense; Breaking even one law will render it illegal right?
Posted by TallIndianKid 3 years ago
TallIndianKid
RFD:
Con had better arguments, analogies, and evidence.
I believe that alpaca would have had a better chance of winning had he not conceded.

I advise alpaca to try and attack the framework of con in order to be able to win. It is true that under the con's framework, it is impossible for aff to win. Con is a good debater for crafting this framework, but there are definitely counter-frameworks that aff could have run in order to win the round.
Posted by adealornodeal 3 years ago
adealornodeal
My 6th citation in Round 2 was cut off. It should read:

[6] Nockleby, John T. (2000), "Hate Speech," in Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, ed. Leonard W. Levy and Kenneth L. Karst, vol. 3
Posted by TallIndianKid 3 years ago
TallIndianKid
i see how it is
lol jk
ill start the american dream speech then lol
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