It would be helpful to readers to hear what local legal people think about the right of a “church” (really only one family) to picket public and private events on unrelated issues and where the public has no way to avoid the invasion of their rights to NOT hear the opinions of the people picketing. Cal Thomas' views in the column are good-no one has a right to force others to hear their views. But this, like most issues, is not simple.
Thomas rightly says the “church” is “preaching a false doctrine that basically claims American soldiers are dying in combat because of this country's increasngly tolerant attitude towards homosexuals” and relates this to how some “religious” people preached segregation and barred blacks from their “churches” at one time and both (preachings) have brought ridicule to be directed at believers in God.
One opinion offered is that speech that might be construed as leading a person to act “is a clear disturbance of the peace at a religious or any kind of event.” And this why some bigots fear a decision, as they claim it could say preachers can not preach homosexuality as a sin, thus violating their “freedom of speech.” But that might depend on the “intent” of the preacher, since if there is no intent to cause harm it might be ok. But at one time it was claimed by Southern bigoted politicians that any meetings in favor of desegregation, much less promoting homosexuality, would cause a disturbance, and thus would be illegal. And it took the U. S. Supreme Court to stop the Post Office from violating “freedom of speech” by refusing to mail a magazine discussing homosexuality.
Would common sense say that picketing on public property is ok, unless causing violence, but that there is no right to preach on private property? But loud speakers should not be allowed as it invades our right to NOT hear the views/noise.
Obviously homosexuality is not an issue in this case, and Phelps only uses it to gain attention, as do many religious bigots, who make money by putting fear of some minority in the minds of ignorant people. But intelligent citizens of all political persusions are aware of being distracted from real issues by such tactics. Cal Thomas is a good example that it is not just “liberal” to be against bigotry, but it helps when the “victims” are brave military people who lost their lives trying to keep our nation free.