Monday, March 28, 2011

Westboro church protests amount to hate speech, even hate crimes

Read my guest editorial in the Canton Repository. Please pass along to other papers in your community. God Bless, Scott Warner

 Westboro church protests amount to hate speech, even hate crimes

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Help Needed for Ohio Gold Star Mother

Dear Friends,

I found out through my military connections that an Ohio Gold Star mother is in desperate need of a vehicle. The S. N. Warner Family Association would like to raise $5,000 to provide this mother a car so she can have transportation to get employment. She was left in a dire situation after the loss of her son. The mother was forced to leave her son’s (KIA last month) home after he died. She was staying there with two of the soldier’s other siblings, taking care of the house. When he passed, she had to leave as she was left with no resources. Catholic Charities has offered her temporary housing, but she desperately needs a car.

Click link below to Donate!
God Bless,

Scott Warner

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What If?

I remember at my son’s funeral sharing the following statement, “May his shed blood on this foreign soil produce a harvest of freedom.” As I was preparing his eulogy I remember thinking is it even possible that freedom could become a reality in Iraq? Could I even imagine what it would look like? Here I am nearly five years later and I am seeing those seeds watered with the blood of our servicemen and women sprouting forth across the Middle East.

What if....Egypt?

Last week I was watching the news and saw Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in Egypt stopping her motorcade to get out of her vehicle to walk the square where the Egyptian uprising has led to a new opportunity for freedom. She stated she wanted to see and take in where a revolution for freedom took place. "To the people of Egypt, let me say: this moment of history belongs to you," Clinton said following talks with Egypt's new foreign minister, Nabil al-Araby. "This is your achievement and you broke barriers and overcame obstacles to pursue the dream of democracy." My heart raced as the flashback to Heath’s funeral and in my mind thought what if?

What if...President Obama?

From Iraq to Egypt to Iran, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and now Libya, people have risen up against the totalitarian rulers. Yesterday, Operation Odyssey Dawn launched an attack to create a no fly zone in Libya. I question what if this action had not taken place a week ago when the momentum was in favor the people who took their heroic stand against Muammar Qaddafi. It was frustrating to watch the Libyan people fearlessly fight only to be pushed back by pro Qaddafi forces and the world again talked of creating a no fly zone. I was particularly annoyed that our President who was more concerned about discussing his March Madness brackets than the devastation in Japan including the nuclear energy plant meltdowns and the Libyan uprising.

What if...Libya?

On the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, I am concerned like many of you about entering into another conflict while we have ongoing warzones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Time will only show us if these prolonged actions by our military will help the people of Libya. But again I wonder what if? Tunisia and Egypt can inspire us that new democracies can emerge. What else can we expect from the people of these oil-rich countries that have been denied basic human rights for so long than to rise up? They seek a democratic rule of law and social justice that they have been denied while their dictators exploited the riches of oil for their personal lavish life styles at the expense of their country’s people.
What if...we were inspired?

If the time is now we need to stand strong with these people. I will never forget watching the brave people in China in the Tiananmen Square Riot that occurred on June 4th, 1989. The world watched as they were massacred by their own government. Let us learn from our past mistakes and stand beside the Libyan people. I am inspired as I think of what if?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Westboro Church Protests are Hate Speech

Westboro Church Protests are Hate Speech

I was extremely disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church. The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-gay demonstrations are protected under the First Amendment. Although I do not believe in censorship, I cannot accept the final ruling by the majority court. The bottom line question is where you draw the line with free speech as a hate Speech and could it even be a hate crime. Lone dissenter, Justice Samuel Alito Jr., believed the majority ruling went too far which I agree.

Criteria for Hate Crimes

Hate crimes (also known as bias-motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, social status or political affiliation. Most notable examples of hate crimes in the U.S. include lynching’s of African Americans, cross burnings to drive black families from predominantly white neighborhoods, assaults on white people traveling in predominantly black neighborhoods, assaults on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and the painting of swastikas on Jewish synagogues as examples. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, is an American Act of Congress, passed on October 22, 2009, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009, as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 (H.R. 2647). Conceived as a response to the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., the measure expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Dissenting Opinion by Justice Alito Gets it Right

Justice Alito accurately identified, “the defendant’s conduct was “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” Furthermore, he correctly presented that Westboro did not dispute that Mr. Snyder suffered “wounds that are truly severe and incapable of healing themselves.” Instead, they maintained that the First Amendment gave them a license to engage in such conduct. He stated “They are wrong.”

To succeed on a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress in Maryland, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant intentionally or recklessly engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct that caused the plaintiff to suffer severe emotional distress. The placards used by Westboro read “God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” “America is Doomed,” “Don’t Pray for the USA,” “Thank God for IEDs,” “Fag Troops,” “Semper Fi Fags,” “God Hates Fags,” “Maryland Taliban,” “Fags Doom Nations,” “Not Blessed Just Cursed,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” ”You’re Going to Hell,” and “God Hates You.”. Furthermore Justice Alito stated “There is no doubt that Westboro chose to stage its picketing at the Naval Academy, the Maryland State House, and Matthew Snyder’s funeral to increase publicity for its views and because of the relation between those sites and its views—in the case of the military funeral.” Mr. Snyder simply wanted to give his son a dignified and honorable funeral for his son, Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. Mr. Snyder wanted what is surely the right of any parent who experiences such an incalculable loss: to bury his son in peace. But respondents, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, deprived him of that elementary right. They first issued a press release and thus turned Matthew’s funeral into a tumultuous media event. They then appeared at the church, approached as closely as they could without trespassing, and launched a malevolent verbal attack on Matthew and his family at a time of acute emotional vulnerability. As a result, Albert Snyder suffered severe and lasting emotional injury. Justice Alito logically states they could have protested at any of a number of other public locations. On the morning of Matthew Snyder’s funeral, respondents could have picketed the United States Capitol, the White House, the Supreme Court, the Pentagon, or any of the more than 5,600 military recruiting stations in this country. He stated “But of course, a small group picketing at any of these locations would have probably gone unnoticed.” Westboro Baptist Church has devised a strategy that remedies this problem. In advance of these protests, they issue press releases to ensure that their protests will attract public attention. This strategy works because it is expected that respondents’ verbal assaults will wound the family and friends of the deceased and because the media is irresistibly drawn to the sight of persons who are visibly in grief. The more outrageous the funeral protest, the more publicity the Westboro Baptist Church is able to obtain. In this case, respondents brutally attacked Matthew Snyder, and this attack, which was almost certain to inflict injury, was central to respondents’ well-practiced strategy for attracting public attention. The Court now holds that the First Amendment protected respondents’ right to brutalize Mr. Snyder. Justice Alito states, “I cannot agree.”

Westboro Protests are Hate Speech

I support Justice Alito’s conclusion that the Westboro protests surpasses First Amendment protection. In fact, I would present that this abuse of speech should be called hate speech as it follows the criteria of a hate crime. It targets a particular group with the intent to cause harm to the targeted group, in this case they chose the private funeral of Mathew Snyder knowing that there would be irreparable harm to the family. Losing a child is the hardest thing a parent can experience. To lose a child who has selflessly served his country in order preserve the very freedoms that are being abused is repugnant to me. When our son, Pvt. Heath Warner was KIA in Iraq, we were told by our funeral director that the Westboro Church had begun the process they follow to protest at our son’s funeral. I cannot begin to put into words the horror, we felt at the prospect our son’s honor and rights to a dignified funeral were going to be invaded by these protesters. They use words to attack our gay and lesbian friends that we would never allow in our home, let alone call our son a Marine fag. I struggled with putting my words into writing as I have been outraged at the treatment of our fallen troops and their families by Westboro Church and an America society that has disengaged themselves from the realities of our ongoing wars. To neglect the sacrifices for freedom made by our families will never be acceptable to me. To that end, I will vigorously fight for our families and hope in time legislation will be developed that will protect the Gold Star Families across our great country and honor those who died so selflessly.