The Instigator
Sotiras
Pro (for)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
Danielle
Con (against)
Winning
40 Points

Westboro Baptist Church should be shut down

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/1/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,911 times Debate No: 14565
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (8)

 

Sotiras

Pro

I am here to argue that Westboro Baptist Church should be closed. For those of your who don't know, WBC is home to the infamous "God Hates F*gs," and "Thank God for IEDs" people. I feel they should be shut down on the basis that they are promoting an extreme degree of hatred, taking part in anti-semitic, anti-american, homophobic, and incredibly offensive behavior, like toting "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" signs at the funerals of our fallen heroes, shouting hateful remarks at the horrified mourning family.

They have already been told not to come within 500 feet of the soldiers' funerals, but they also picket pretty much anything that will get them publicity, and never cease to amaze people with how intolerant and hateful ways.

I say that they haven't gone far enough, and that WBC should be shut down on the basis that they are a hate group, spreading a venemous message, and saying that we should be thankful for 9/11. I think they went too far a long time ago, and they should be disbanded, with their various websites taken down.

I am not going to argue about any of their beliefs, albeit I stand at odds with every single one of them. What I'm arguing is that it would have a positive effect if they were in some way barred from openly preaching such unguarded hatred.

Before anyone incites the 1st amendment, much of what they do falls under defamation of specific people, verbally abusing the parents of dead soldiers, and inflicting so much unnecessary turnoil on innocent people.
Danielle

Con

I'd like to thank my opponent for instigating this debate.

Before we begin, I'll point out that I am completely against what the Westboro Baptist Church stands for and advocates, which is straight up hate and ignorance. However Noam Chomsky once said "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all." I agree with those sentiments.

Pro mentioned the first amendment at the conclusion of his round, and admittedly I will be discussing freedom of speech and expression throughout this debate. However much of what the Westboro Baptist Church engages in is straight up hate speech which is in fact illegal. I will be arguing that it should possibly not be illegal, or at the very least that the Westboro Baptist Church not be shut down even if it engages in illegal hate speech. Hate speech is any speech, gesture, conduct, writing or display that is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group [1].

First off, why should hate speech be illegal? People do not have the right to not be offended, however Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights among other groups recognize the right to free speech [2]. In "On Liberty, " John Stuart Mill argued that "...there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered" [3]. Indeed the right to express one's opinions and seek to implement one's beliefs in political discourse is considered not only a right but a responsibility by many activists. As such, the people from the Westboro Baptist Church are simply exercising their rights.

If one does not like hearing people say "God hates f@gs," then perhaps they should remove themselves from the situation where the people are audible to them. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to agree, not to listen and not to support one's own antagonists. In cases such as soldier's funerals, the church and/or community where the funeral is being held should obtain police protection, barriers and/or other ordinances to protect the privacy of the family and respect the property rights of funeral parlor owners and the like. The WBC does not have the right to parade through public streets or disrupt public and private affairs. They are however permitted to assemble on their own property. They do not have the right to clog the streets. They can speak but not take action on public property.

If ANY laws are broken, the specific people who committed the crimes should be held accountable and punished. However to dismantle an entire organization because you don't agree with their beliefs or practices is fundamentally wrong. The Westboro Baptist Church is not a single entity but an organization. Why punish an entire group for the actions of a few? Even if every last member of the church participated in this despicable and pathetic behavior, they should be punished individually.

There is a huge difference between annoying/upsetting people and violating the rights of others. Once again the WBC should not be allowed to impede on anybody else's rights. However thus far Pro has mentioned violations such as picketing or shouting hateful remarks -- neither of which are (or should be) illegal. I'm pretty sure those who marched during the Civil Rights Movement were picketing and upsetting people too. The hippies who protested the war in the 1960s were also exercising their right to be heard.

Pro says the WBC should be shut down on the basis that it's a hate group. Once again, hate crimes are actions that may incite violence or prejudicial action -- key word here being "may." I'll repeat that if anyone actually commits a violent action against another, then that individual should most definitely be punished. However to condemn something because it MAY encourage bad behavior is just silly. We don't prohibit violent games or media on the basis that it may promote violence in people -- and studies show it does [4]. We don't criminalize cigarettes on the basis that they can and often do cause cancer. Instead, we let people be responsible for their own actions.

To re-cap, members of the WBC should be held accountable for their actions as individuals. The group should not be dismantled. The group cannot and does not hurt people as an entity in itself. The question then becomes whether or not hate speech should be illegal. I say no. Just as the WBC members are entitled to their (incredibly flawed) opinions, their opponent's are equally capable of getting their opinions heard. When we start putting limitations on what is acceptable and not acceptable to say, our freedom is immediately stifled. This sets a precedent for dangerous censorship and oppression. Moreover, my opponent hasn't provided any reasoning as to why the government or any agency acting on its behalf should have the capability of silencing the ignorant.

Pro has said "I'm arguing that it would have a positive effect if they were in some way barred from openly preaching such unguarded hatred." While it's probably true that it would be a good thing if this group were to just disappear, that doesn't mean it should be shut down by force. Ayn Rand points out "The Bill of Rights reads: 'Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . . ' It does not demand that private citizens provide a microphone for the man who advocates their destruction, or a passkey for the burglar who seeks to rob them, or a knife for the murderer who wants to cut their throats" [5].

In conclusion, the Westboro Baptist Church has the right to freedom of expression. If any member oversteps the law or other boundaries, action should be taken against that person. However to shut down the organization on the premise of disagreeing with their moral values as a whole is dangerous, oppressive and unfair. There is no moral or legal obligation to affirm the resolution.

- References -

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www2.ohchr.org...
[3] http://www.seop.leeds.ac.uk...
[4] http://allpsych.com...
[5] Rand, Ayn. The Virtue of Selfishness - pg. 99
Debate Round No. 1
Sotiras

Pro

First, I'm greatly relieved that my opponent and I agree on our strong disapproval of the hate that WBC preaches. I was afraid a WBC apologist would come in here saying everything WBC stands for is correct, and that wouldn't have been any fun at all.

One of the reasons I believe that WBC, as a singular case, and not an amendment-changing political action, should be shut down, is that they indoctrinate all those plentiful children they have, who would otherwise have been functioning members of society, into their own belief of hatred and intolerance. Those children are never given any choice in what they believe, because their parents decide for them. I consider this psychological abuse/bullying, as I'm sure a psychologist would. Threatening not only to cast them out of their church, but even their family, if they start to question the hatred they're being taught. This is blatant psychological child abuse.

The WBC also preaches every hate-speech you can think of. They're homophobic, anti-america, anti-free speech (ironically), etc. They believe that everyone who disagrees with them on any of these things will suffer unimaginable torment for all eternity, and they have no qualms about telling this to every passerby within preaching distance. Their influence has been the direct cause of many religious zealots from oither churches believing that gays should be put to DEATH, of all things. Whichever way you look at it, WBC is POISONING our society, and they are as vehemently preaching hatred as the mobs of muslims holding signs saying "Massacre those who insult Islam"

On a final note, when they go to funerals of the fallen heroes of our army, they directly mentally abuse the mourning family of the soldierin question, constantly shouting how the soldier is in Hell, and he was a "f*g-enabler" (Their way of saying "tolerant") and that they're going to Hell for raising him, and that all his friends are going to Hell. This is indescribable hatred toward every point of view that is not directly parrallel to their own.

If you'd like me to try and refute anything, just directly ask me in your next argument, and I'll try my best.
Danielle

Con

Many thanks to my opponent for his timely response.

Pro's first point in his rebuttal is that "they [the WBC] indoctrinate all those plentiful children they have" and thus should be shut down as an organization. However ALL religious institutions "indoctrinate" children in the sense that people are born into families that practice or encourage a particular ideology/faith, which the child usually comes to accept and embrace. My parents were Roman Catholic, baptized me as an infant and sent me to Catholic school throughout my life. Should the Catholic church be shut down? If not then why should the WBC?

Indoctrination is not a good enough reason. People are indoctrinated into all kinds of things. Some children are indoctrinated to believe eating junk food constantly is acceptable. It's upsetting, but it doesn't mean the law should interfere. Pro says "Those children are never given any choice in what they believe" which I don't think is true and this was never supported by my opponent. Pro also mentions psychological abuse but fails to give any evidence, proof or examples. Just because he disagrees with the message and practices of the WBC doesn't mean they do not have the right to carry on, or that they are in fact abusive.

Pro continues to talk about how the WBC encourages hate speech and whatnot, though I've already addressed this in Round 1. Not only did I talk a lot about the nature of hate speech, but what people could do to avoid it. I also mentioned how hate speech, however harmful, is not a good enough reason to shut an organization down -- especially because an *organization* is not an entity that can be punished.

My opponent's entire argument thus far has been that the WBC ought to be shut down because they are intolerant, hypocritical, hateful and offensive. None of these things are illegal. The job of the law isn't to make sure that everybody is a moral human being. Instead it exists to protect people's rights -- including the rights of those we do not agree with.

As I said in the last round, if any member of the WBC violates the rights of another person, that offending individual ought to be punished. However you cannot violate the right of free speech (which Pro never denied is a legitimate right) to protect hurt feelings or feelings of dissent. We cannot all be expected to agree. Part of living in a free society is respecting other people's right to be heard even if you disagree with what they say. If one is offended, they can/should take measures to avoid it and also ensure that their rights are being protected. For instance funeral homes can enforce property boundaries to ensure funerals are not disrupted.

Just as the WBC pickets, screams things, creates websites, etc. their opponents are allowed to do the same. Ultimately the WBC's disrespectful actions speak for themselves. They're not trying to change people's minds; they're seeking publicity. It's terrible but it's not illegal. Infringing upon their rights to protect people's feelings is not only illegal but immoral. Pro has not proven otherwise thus far.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2
Sotiras

Pro

I concede this argument to my opponent. I find myself unable to continue defending my position. Kudos to you, good sir.
Danielle

Con

Thank you, Pro, though I feel obliged to point out that I am a 'her' and not a 'sir' :)
Debate Round No. 3
Sotiras

Pro

Very well, good her.
Vote Con.
Danielle

Con

Thank you Pro. I appreciate it! This was a pretty interesting debate nonetheless :)
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"unfortunately some people jump to such conclusions"

I concede that without hesitation, my only argument is that simply you are better than that, while it might be a viable handicap for some - do you really see it as crippling for you personally? I don't.
Posted by Danielle 6 years ago
Danielle
I understand what you're saying, but unfortunately some people jump to such conclusions. For instance my opponent made that mistake lol. It's definitely ignorant but since this isn't a formal debate then I didn't think a little note could hurt :)
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"how am I pandering to it"

Not to them (the church) but the audience. Such disclaimers are simply to avoid the stigma of defending something negative.

Only the ignorant so characterize the individual. It is pandering to this ignorance to thus include a disclaimer which is not relevant to the debate at all.
Posted by Danielle 6 years ago
Danielle
"As a side note, is it really necessary to add these disclaimers to debates, they are nothing more than pandering to ignorance."

In noting that the WBC preaches ignorance, how am I pandering to it? Also the disclaimers aren't "necessary" but I wanted my opponent to have a better understanding of where I was coming from. He mentioned that he appreciated the notation.
Posted by devinni01841 6 years ago
devinni01841
@SusanBrei - My thought on that is that it's not what they're saying, it's where they're saying it. Their logic is skewed, and picketing the funerals of soldiers is completely unnecessary, and uncalled for. If they chose to picket on the street or at a park, or whatever, it would be a different story
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"Before we begin, I'll point out that I am completely against what the Westboro Baptist Church stands for and advocates, which is straight up hate and ignorance."

As a side note, is it really necessary to add these disclaimers to debates, they are nothing more than pandering to ignorance.
Posted by Illegalcombatant 6 years ago
Illegalcombatant
So this will come down to free speech vs how far do we let free speech go eh
Posted by Awed 6 years ago
Awed
You might want to change the wording of the resolution to have "ought" instead of "should."
Posted by SusanBrei 6 years ago
SusanBrei
I would have taken this debate were I not leaving town for a couple days.

I, too, hate the WBC, but I HAVE to evoke the Constitution. Free speech is protected. Religion is protected. They are well within their rights, and they know it. The problem with "shutting down" a group like the WBC is that it's a slippery slope. What is offensive and not offensive is subjective, changing from person to person, and if we allow the policing of speech and activism, someone might decide the next gay pride parade is offensive and shut IT down. Someone might decide certain political movements are offensive, and shut them down too.

True freedom comes at a cost. Sometimes we're confronted with ideas we do not agree with, but freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom of religion (or lack thereof) are imperitive to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Posted by Cobo 6 years ago
Cobo
As long as they don't hurt people or offend me, I'm good.
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by DeFool 4 years ago
DeFool
SotirasDanielleTied
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Total points awarded:16 
Reasons for voting decision: As a person who is also "hypocritical, hateful and offensive," I was glad to hear that conduct such as mine is still to be protected by some. I agreed with Con beforehand, and Pro was never able to change this disposition. Therefore, convincing arguments and sourcing must go to Con as well - since these are interconnected scores. Grammar must go to Con, for readability. The concession by Pro is conclusive. Points must go to Pro for intellectual integrity and class.
Vote Placed by socialpinko 5 years ago
socialpinko
SotirasDanielleTied
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Vote Placed by boredinclass 5 years ago
boredinclass
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Vote Placed by Punch 6 years ago
Punch
SotirasDanielleTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Our country was founded upon freedom of conscience and belief. I "hate" the WBC for they stand for and pray that God will judge them harshly for their actions which I find despicable. But that suspending some of our most cherished and enduring freedoms is out of the question.
Vote Placed by Grape 6 years ago
Grape
SotirasDanielleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro conceded arguments and did not use sources.
Vote Placed by InquireTruth 6 years ago
InquireTruth
SotirasDanielleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Unable to defend the resolution, Sotiras was forced to concede all points.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
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Reasons for voting decision: No contest, Pro conceded.
Vote Placed by Danielle 6 years ago
Danielle
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro conceded the points for arguments. Pro didn't include any sources. I didn't feel like giving myself the conduct point despite his forfeit, because I very much respect his decision to do so.