Right to Speak: Responsibility to Respond

They were going to protest at the funeral of a nine year old. They were going to protest at the funeral of this young girl, one of the victims of the Tuscon shooting last week. Why? Because her family is Catholic.

This is the church in Kansas that understands its mission to be protesting at funerals. They don’t protest death or the funeral industry. They use the funeral as the public space for their protest. Perhaps you’ve read of their demonstrations at the funerals of soldiers killed in the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. They’re not protesting the wars. They use the public space to proclaim judgment; the reason for these deaths is because our nation does not believe what they believe, does not practice the Christian faith the way they practice the Christian faith.

The latest place of protest was to be in Arizona, at funerals of people killed in the tragic shootings in Tuscon. They have every right to say stupid, inappropriate, even hurtful things in public. However, perhaps their right to express themselves ends where another person’s right to express his or her grief in a safe place begins. Thankfully, Arizona lawmakers thought so too. Additionally, the church has been given 30 minutes of radio air time to say stupid, inappropriate and hurtful things. They’ve decided to use that public space instead.

This church has a right to free speech. They have a right to scapegoat communities of people with labels and blame.

We have a responsibility to faithful speech. It is imperative that those of us who are Christians who believe this church and others like it are misrepresenting the values and beliefs of our faith speak up. We have a moral responsibility to counter anti-Catholic rhetoric. We have a moral responsibility to speak up when anti-Semetic and racist jokes and comments are made. We have a moral responsibility to speak up in opposition to comments that demean people who are homosexual, bi-sexual or transgendered.

Ponder this poem by Disciples poet, Edwin Markham, whose life and creative work spanned the 19th and 20th centuries.


He drew a circle that shut me out-

Heretic, rebel, a though to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win

And we drew a circle that took him in!

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