The Instigator
trueseeker
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
MyDinosaurHands
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

The Westboro Baptist Church should not have a right to free speech

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
MyDinosaurHands
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/9/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 674 times Debate No: 66659
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)

 

trueseeker

Pro

In America, freedom of speech is protected by the 1st amendment of the United States Constitution. Thus, ones speech may be unpopular, it may be hurtful or clearly misunderstood. It may even be unpatriotic; however, the U.S. Constitution supports their right to make these statements. It is my opinion that the Westboro Baptist Church is a mean cult which only exists to make the lives of ordinary citizens miserable. They protest military funerals, they hailed the mass killing of children as God's will. They hold up derogatory signs which proclaim that "God Hates F***s". Their actions promote anger and discomfort within a civilized society. Their "holier than thou" attitude has sparked counter demonstrations which have the potential for violence. Because of the specific intent of this group to spread a speech of hate, and to degrade our military personnel and other citizens of our society, they should not have a constitutional protection which allows them to hurt people. CON may want to argue that the Constitution is what it is whether we like it or not. Therefore we have to respect the protections that it offers even if people are hurt. CON may argue that, if it is constitutionally permissible to burn the flag (a form of free speech), no one should argue about a group's expression of their ideology. If my opponent believes that it is right for the Constitution to protect hateful ideology, let the debate begin.
MyDinosaurHands

Con

FREE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS
The idea of a 'free marketplace' often refers to forms of unrestrained capitalism, where anything goes because what people want determines what goes and what doesn't. Here however, this has nothing to do with economics.

Think of all ideas as existing in an economy of ideas. If an idea is insightful, useful, funny, or popular somehow, it will 'succeed' in the marketplace; in other words, many people will accept it. If an idea is not successful--that is to say, it is unaccepted because it is bigoted, hateful, stupid, or otherwise unpopular--then it will be considered to have 'failed' in the marketplace of ideas.

The Westboro Baptist Church falls into the latter category. The Church forwards a very unpopular idea. It is not only unaccepted, it is repudiated. Counter-protests are springing up all around the nation[1][2][3]. The free marketplace of ideas beginning to censor the Church. Not only is their message being actively repudiated, but this repudiation is taking a toll on their membership. Within a decade, they've lost 20 of their 60 members[4][5]. This is understandable, as the Baptists are an extreme anti-gay group existing in a culture of increasing tolerance and sensitivity towards gay people.

So they were already a tiny group, and now they're beginning to die off. Why would we need to grant the government power to deal with them when they're already being dealt with handily?

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP
It may sound alarmist to say, "We start with censoring the Baptists and next thing you know all conservative ideas will be being banned by Obama!"

And it totally is--our country would never experience a shift in direction that insane within a time period small enough wherein Obama is still in office.

However, I would still posit that giving the government the power to control what people say, even if it is with good intention, has the capacity for an unwanted slippery slope effect. Keep in mind as I go on what was mentioned in the previous section: the Westboro problem is becoming less and less of a problem thanks to the censorship of the free marketplace of ideas.

So how do we conceivably move down a slippery slope path? Well, we start with censoring the Westboro Baptists in a fervor of righteous anger. After that people say, 'OK, that's far enough, we don't want to take this censorship stuff too far'. The next generation grows up with the idea of limited censorship as a perfectly commonplace thing. This acceptance of a form of censorship makes them more open to the concept of its expansion. So maybe they do expand the criteria for hate speech a bit, cast a wider net, censor more people. The next generation is more accustomed to this furthered version of censorship and is therefore more open to even further expansion. This goes on and on until the government has too much power in terms of saying who can say what; people are censored en masse, prevented from speaking out against their government; democracy begins to die.

At this point I suppose I should admit that any mildly experienced debater will probably be pointing out that the outcomes slippery slope arguments posit aren't 100% certain to happen. I can't argue against that, but what I can do is show that we don't even need to tempt this slippery slope. When we combine the information in these two sections, here's what we're left balancing as our courses of actions:

Allowing a virtual non-problem (Westboro) to exist for however much longer it has vs. tempting the possibility of a serious problem (too much government control)

I'll rephrase the rhetorical question I used to end my first section:
Why bother risking the slippery slope of restrictive government control and censorship when the problem it would solve is already being solved without taking that risk? Answer: there is no good reason.

Thanks for reading.

Sources:
[1] http://www.gazettenet.com...
[2] http://journaltimes.com...
[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com...
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[5] http://cjonline.com...
Debate Round No. 1
trueseeker

Pro

My opponent brings up good points, However, these are points that can be dissected and easily challenged.

CON has said that the ideas of Westboro Baptist Church are bigoted, stupid and hateful; therefore the ideas are considered failed. This reasoning is unsustainable: A failed idea is one that can be officially discredited ( such as the earth being flat, or Elvis is alive). There is no authority to officially discredit Westboro's hateful ideas. The hated speech is protected because it is "just speech". However, I would like to point out that according to the Supreme Court's decision regarding the freedom of speech, we realize that all speech is constitutionally protected, regardless how dangerous or hateful it may be, as long as it is truthful. Speech that is dangerous and hateful is not protected if it is false speech. Our military personnel should not be humiliated and disrespected at their funerals because they are directly responsible for the degradation of our country because gays are not forbidden to join. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com...). I would love for "this cult" to show by a preponderance of the evidence that this could remotely be true. Just because one's subjective ideas are believed by a fanatical view, does not make these ideas true. In fact, significant defections in this group lend more evidence to members not standing up for what they believe is a fact, yet agitating society to a point where there is no reason to their actions. This should be protected??? Where is the truth which would make this speech protected? there is no truth. They claim that the Bible supports their position to smear society with ramblings of hate. This is not true. A verse by verse analysis of both the old and new testament does not substantiate their claims. Where is the truth? Remember, there must be truth in their speech; this is a critical element to constitutionally exercise this freedom.

Why is it not permissible to yell fire in a theater if there is no fire? Because in order for it to be permissible speech, it must be true, additionally, it invites the very real risk that others could be put in danger (http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org...). When my opponent says that the ideas of this "cult" are failed, CON helps to support my conclusion that this is not reasoned speech where truth is considered. It is speech that has the intent to disrupt a harmonious society. Should negative intent, in the absence of truth be protected? I say NO. It should not be tolerated or protected.
My opponent states that society's distain for this type of speech is their way of handily dealing with them. I disagree. I say that no group who survives for twenty years is handily dealt with.

My opponent states that because of the free market of ideas, Westboro is becoming less of a problem. I disagree. Westboro's influence is not simply limited to ideas; they intrude into the realm of physical action with the potential for violence. They intrude into the dignity of military heroes who fight for our country. This is not an indictment on a particular religious denomination. This is about an understanding and appreciation for constitutional and moral rights.

Finally, my opponent discusses a slippery slope. The literal definition of the term slippery slope as used in this context is: a course of action that leads from one action or result to another unintended consequence (http://merriam-webster.com...). I believe that the confrontation against the forces of hate is a good thing. I believe that the end result does not support consequences. They promote truth and liberty and creates an effective means for positive change.
MyDinosaurHands

Con

I'll just be doing some simple quote and respond bits here.

"However, I would like to point out that according to the Supreme Court's decision regarding the freedom of speech, we realize that all speech is constitutionally protected, regardless how dangerous or hateful it may be, as long as it is truthful."
This summarizes the main point my opponent made in his reply. He concedes that all speech is protected, no matter how dangerous or hateful it may be, as long as it isn't a lie. If it is a lie, it is defined as slander[1], which I will get to in a minute. First though, I'd like to ask, do we know that the Westboro Baptist Church is wrong in saying that god hates gay people? Ordinarily, this would open up a huge and unpleasant tangent on what we can and cannot know about god. Thankfully, my opponent agrees with me when he says, "There is no authority to officially discredit Westboro's hateful ideas. The hated speech is protected because it is "just speech"." We stand in agreement then on the fact that one cannot prove whether a presumed existing deity supports what the Westboro Church claims. This said, their speech does not qualify as slander, and therefore cannot be infringed upon, as my opponent says.

Assuming it could be proved to be a lie that god hates gay people, slander is a legal matter, not a government one. If someone slanders you, you can sue them for damages[1]. If somebody wants to take the Westboro Church to court for slandering them, and can somehow prove what they said was definitively untrue, then that'd be that.

"My opponent states that society's distain for this type of speech is their way of handily dealing with them. I disagree. I say that no group who survives for twenty years is handily dealt with."
Well they never had more than 60 members, and they've lost a third of that in 10 years. If voters dispute my use of the word handily, that's fine, it's just there for the sake of being there. The fact remains however: they're an already tiny group which is shrinking to even tinier proportions. They exist in a society that is becoming increasingly unhospitable to their views, something which should only hasten their fall. They are constantly being counter-protested--prevented from delivering their hateful messages to their targets. They're tiny. They're insignificant. They're dying.

I would ask the voters, do they think we really need to grant the government further powers and risk a slippery slope when the problem is already on its way to extinction? Think about the tiny impact a group of 40 and shrinking (one that is censored by the free market of ideas) has on a nation of 320 million[2]. Now think about the effect an overly powerful government could have on a nation of 320 million, or more, presuming the consequences come some time in the future. There is so much more to lose than gain. Why risk it when it's not necessary?

Thanks for reading.

Sources:
[1] http://www.thebloggersbulletin.com...
[2] http://factfinder2.census.gov...
Debate Round No. 2
trueseeker

Pro

My opponent brings up some very interesting points. However, let's see if a careful analysis of these points will prove valid.

My opponent believes that just because the Westboro Church is a small group of less than 60 individuals, they are insignificant in the overall scheme of things and that their impact on society is "tiny" in a nation of 320 million people. I bet they probably thought the same of another small and insignificant group in1918. Anton Drexler and his Committee of Independent workmen (a tiny political group) had many harsh, hateful and controversial ideas. Did they fail? Did they go into extinction? Did the vast market of progressive ideas stop them? NO. They became the precursor of NAZISM (McNabe, Chris (2011) Hitler's Master Plan p22 - 23). Here, Drexler and his small insignificant group, were proponents of an Aryan master race and that the Jews were responsible for evil Capitalism and proclaimed the denouncement of the Jews (http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu...). Obviously, they were on their way to extinction. Interestingly, If the Jews did not like this negative speech against them, and they felt that their name was being unfairly used, why not simply sue for slander (as my opponent would say)? Not as easy as it seems. However, my opponent is correct; the views of the Nazi's ultimately met failure (however, not before over 6 million Jews were slaughtered http://www.history.com...). What would have happened if his hateful speech was stopped? Remember, it's only speech right? And how harmful can speech be?

In conclusion, I would like to remind the voters that the premise of this debate is not that we need the government to do something; rather we want the government not to do something - Like protecting speech whose proponents have no other intent, but to harm the harmonious environment that citizens need for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Westboro may be one small group. However, there are many "Westboros" in this country. Let the hate stop now. I say vote PRO, let us all be a part of the solution and eradicate those elements that have been proven to be part of the problem.
MyDinosaurHands

Con

It would appear for all intents and purposes that in response to the slippery slope I have proposed we worry about, my opponent has offered an alternative, in order to make risking mine look more favorable than risking his. However, the supposed link between the genesis of the Holocaust and the Westboro Church disintegrates rapidly upon examination.

This is firstly because of what we have observed thus far of the Westboro Church. In 20 years of existence, they have lost one third of their minuscule starting membership. This is in stark contrast to my opponent's example, with Drexler's committee growing from 55 members in 1919 to 4,000 in 1921[1]. Far from dying off like the Westboros are, this movement had an explosive, rapidly growing element to it. If the Westboros had this element, as my opponent would need them to for the analogy to stick, we would've witnessed this already during the 20 years they've existed.

Perhaps more importantly, we need to examine the culture in which these two groups existed, and their attitudes towards them, respectively. As I have stated repeatedly without argument from my opponent, the Westboro Church is existing in a culture that is increasingly opposed to their core beliefs. Not so with Drexler's Committee. History tells us:

"Their defeat in World War I gravely accelerated anti-Semitism among the German people. Many German writers and public figures (encouraged by the German Army General staff) explained the defeat with the "stab in the back" argument -- that Jews and communists had undermined morale at home when the army was still winning the fight in the field. This was of course far from the truth, for the German army was collapsing by November 1918 and much of the navy was already in mutiny. But thousands of Germans, unwilling to believe that defeat was inevitable after 1917, accepted the argument."[2]
I would encourage voters interested in further information on the history of antisemitism in Europe leading up to the second world war to follow my second link; for the purposes of the debate however, I believe this quote is sufficient. It clearly shows that the ideas expressed by Drexler were not like Westboro's in terms of cultural acceptance. Drexler's cause grew because people supported it. Nobody supports the kind of hate coming out of the Westboro Church.

Under any rational examination, we can see there is no reason to think the Westboro Church is going to produce something on the level of the Holocaust; in fact, as I have repeatedly shown, the only rational prediction at this point for the Church is its eventual extinction, based upon membership rates and cultural opposition.

So, I've reasonably shown that my opponent's slippery slope is unfounded. This pretty much sets us back to my initial argument: the Westboro Church affects way less people than an abusive government might, and it is only growing less and less in influence. Why bother risking giving government too much power for our own good when the problem is rapidly becoming a non-problem naturally?

Thanks for reading.

Sources:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://web.mnstate.edu...
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by cheyennebodie 2 years ago
cheyennebodie
The 1st amendment is not there to protect warm, fuzzy speech. That needs no protection. It is there to protect offensive speech. All it says is that government cannot say what is offensive and what is not. Only private entities can do that. If I do not want homo's in my environment, I simply will not allow them in my home. But I cannot make laws forbidding their sex act.

Right on the other hand I cannot be restricted from calling it what it is, a nasty sex act and will never allow it around me or mine.
Posted by IndianaFrank 2 years ago
IndianaFrank
All those statements are true, however the one thing they left out is.... it must be true or it become slander and that can get you sued.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Blade-of-Truth 2 years ago
Blade-of-Truth
trueseekerMyDinosaurHandsTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct - Tie. Both had proper conduct throughout. S&G - Tie. Both had adequate spelling and grammar throughout. Arguments - Con. Pro had an uphill battle to climb with his proposed change to the status quo. He built a case around the negative impacts that the church has had and can potentially cause. Pro even went so far as to compare them to Anton Drexler and his Committee of Independent workmen. Con was able to effectively rebut his case though by showing the difference in success between the independent workers group when compared to westboro baptist church which was shown to be losing it's membership and support. After Con overcame that challenge, there was really nothing more from Pro that was substantial. Con was able to show that the church was not a significant threat large enough to justify this change of practice, and thus Con wins arguments. Sources - Tie. Both utilized sources in this debate and neither really stood out as more impactful than the other.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
trueseekerMyDinosaurHandsTied
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Reasons for voting decision: What happened in this debate was pretty straightforward: Pro failed to prove that his case had any inherency, and Con effectively showed that there is a significant and plausible harm that can result from government action. I feel like Pro kept leaving too many arguments on the table, eventually leaving himself with only one possible winning point in the final round, which Con successfully refuted. It wasn't as though there was nothing useful before that ? Pro could easily have argued that his inherency is eliminating a damaging influence on society faster, and that setting a standard is a good thing, as there are other groups that also take it too far. As it was, Con was able to so effectively minimize the harms of the WBC that his slippery slope argument appears, by far, the strongest. Ergo, I vote Con.