The concept of being allowed to say anything, anytime, and anywhere is a fundamental right in America and, indeed, most of the civilized world. Although the concept of vocal harassment is commonly understood as offensive behavior intended to disturb or upset another person repetitively, it is a fundamental right protected under the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that there are no bounds on the freedom of speech regardless the speech’s offensive nature or the damage inflicted on the recipient of harassing speech. One often wonders why the Constitution’s framers did not include a guarantee of freedom from harassing speech in the Bill of Rights to protect innocent Americans from those abusing the freedom of speech, but they likely never imagined good Christian people harassing other Americans seeking medical services like help getting pregnant, cancer screenings, abortions, contraceptives, or family planning assistance.
On Thursday the Supreme Court ruled, unanimously, to uphold the right of anti-abortion advocates, prospective murderers, abortion clinic bombers (domestic terrorists), opponents of Planned Parenthood, and anti-women’s rights groups to get up close and personal with women seeking medical services to harass, disturb, and upset them. It is not that the women haters were muzzled before the High Court’s ruling, they just had to stay 35′ away from the women entering Planned Parenthood where they could hardly block the entrance, spit in the women’s faces, and wave “fetus signs” in their faces while screaming all manner of harassing insults; what the anti-women’s rights groups consider both freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
There was a good reason for the 35′ buffer zone around family planning buildings, but according to the Supreme Court protecting women’s entry to clinics from violent anti-choice advocates that resulted in the deaths of two people in Massachusetts is not a good enough reason for a “safety zone.” Interestingly, the Supreme Court has never found the buffer zone around the High Court building unconstitutional, but that is likely because the justices are predominately male. The Court said that law enforcement could politely ask the screamers to kindly move aside and let the women pass unmolested to seek medical attention, but that is as unlikely as anti-women’s choice advocates not screaming and spitting at the women. In fact, law enforcement typically takes the side of anti-choice protestors because they are “exercising their free speech and religious freedom” according to an incident in California about five years ago.
A California opinion columnist for a local newspaper was driving to get a routine blood test at a local laboratory and inadvertently drove into the wrong medical complex. However, because there was a one-way entrance, the journalist had to exit through another driveway that anti-choice protestors were blocking. The small group approached the vehicle, screaming “baby murderer” and struck the vehicle with a “fetus sign” and a scuffle ensued. After confiscating and destroying the fetus sign, law enforcement rolled up and despite witnesses verifying the journalist’s story that his exit was blocked and his vehicle assaulted with a fetus sign, they warned him that he violated the protestors Constitutional rights, took down his driver’s license number, and told him to stay away and “stop harassing Christians.” Fortunately they did not force the man to pay for the fetus sign.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that is not reserved for religious extremists protesting dead soldiers’ funerals, or anti-choice protesters harassing and berating women seeking medical care; or atheists protesting, screaming, and waving signs at anti-choice protestors entering their place of worship. Remember, a buffer zone is only Constitutional around the Supreme Court and that leaves every church in America open for people to exercise their constitutionally-protected freedom of speech and express their opposition to a world of bible-based affronts to gays, women, non-believers, and advocates for democracy. In fact, there is no reason why any American who supports separation of church and state, public school without religion, women’s right to choose, same-sex marriage, science, and freedom from religious tyranny should not be protesting fundamentalist Christians entering churches mercilessly.
Freedom of speech goes both ways and it is high time to give back to religious extremists what they dole out against women with impunity; and Supreme Court approval. One understands the Court’s adhering to the First Amendment’s free speech clause, but it is beyond the pale they ignored the reason why screaming, spitting, fetus sign-waving women haters were restricted from getting right in the faces of women seeking medical care. So it is reasonable they will ignore the anti-choice protestors’ cries that their religious freedom is being abridged by Americans getting up-close-and-personal and berating them incessantly every Sunday morning as they attempt to maneuver through anti-theocracy protestors exercising their freedom of speech.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.