The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

96° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Chatter: April 5

Semper fi?

The right to free speech has long been a question asked of the judicial system in the United States. In the case of Albert Snyder and his lawsuit against the Westboro Baptist Church, this freedom was taken a step too far. According to CNN, the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, shouting, “”You are going to hell”” and “”Thank God for dead soldiers.”” His father, Albert Snyder, sued the church for privacy invasion and intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. Snyder lost the case and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Snyder to pay more than $16,000 in court costs spent by the church. This is simply a slap in the face for a soldier and his family, which have gone to serve our nation and subsequently have been hit with a barrage of insanity and hate.

The picketing occurred on public grounds, Westboro Baptist Church claimed, but that hardly gives them the right to disturb a private practice — the funeral of a Marine. We have seen and heard of what the Kansas-based church can do and how its practices are constructed of nothing but hate, but in this case, they have taken it too far. The shouts of “”Thank God for dead soldiers”” are hardly warranted even if freedom of speech seems to protect the church.

The problem is also the fact that if a racial slur were used, the scandal would have escalated much higher. This should be no different. Hate crimes do not only go against certain races and ethnicities, but as seen from this case, against anyone who is different or stands to suffer. The church’s shouts of hate brought just that. Instead of a race being targeted, however, an already-grieving family was hit.

The sad truth is that despite the freedom of speech’s presence in the Constitution, hate crimes such as these must not go unpunished. To add insult to injury, the court ordered the family to pay $16,000 to the church — a mockery of the system in itself. The Supreme Court has agreed to take up this case and an eventual decision in favor of the Marine’s family is likely to follow, barring God’s hand coming down and slamming the judge’s hammer in favor of Westboro Baptist Church. The competitive First Amendment and privacy and religious rights of the mourners will face each other in court, and sanity and fairness should hopefully come out on top.

— “”Westboro abuses freedom of speech,”” The Rutgers Daily Targum editorial board, March 31

Anything less than the best is a felony

In many states across the country, being convicted of a felony is grounds not only for prison time, but also for a major elimination of rights, specifically the right to vote.

For years, felons and ex-felons have been deprived of the fundamental American right to vote because their past indiscretions dictate their inability to be represented. The idea is that these people have committed one of the worst crimes possible and shouldn’t be allowed to have their vote counted in important social and political matters.

Recently, a House subcommittee held a hearing on the Democracy Restoration Act, a bill that would return the right to vote to millions of disenfranchised American citizens. The bill would make the rule the same for ex-felons in all states, as opposed to the current situation where different states have varying laws in place. For instance, in Virginia and Kentucky ex-felons are barred from voting unless they receive individual government clearance, while in Maine and Vermont, there is no voting exclusion for ex-felons once they complete their sentences.

After serving a sentence that hopefully is equivalent to the crime committed, according to the courts, these ex-felons have paid their debt to society, regardless of whether these sentences strictly come with jail time, parole or probationary status, community service, etc. Ex-felons may have committed some of the worst crimes possible, but that shouldn’t have anything to do with the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution.

They are people and, more importantly in this case, American citizens, ergo their fundamental right to vote should be immediately restored upon the completion of their sentences.

Statistically, the vast majority of felons and ex-felons come from minority groups, who are either currently incarcerated, or on parole and living in communities around America, hopefully attempting to resume their lives as positive and contributing members of society.

Also proven by statistics, minorities tend to vote in favor of the Democratic directives and for Democratic candidates for public office.

This presents an interesting indication. It’s not proven, but it seems as though withholding the right to vote from ex-felons is a Republican ploy to affect the outcomes of votes in the Republican favor.

Restricting these possible Democratic votes from consideration is a political move that, unfortunately, we feel is also rooted in race.

— “”Ex-felons fundamental rights restricted,”” The Howard University Hilltop editorial board, March 31

More to Discover
Activate Search