Check this out:
Zach's a high school student who found out about the Westboro Baptist Church from Kansas, 70 hate-filled people who roam the country with giant protest signs saying that the deaths of U.S. Soldiers, and hurricanes, and (fill in the blank for bad events that happen in the U.S.A.) are God's way of punishing our country for our "tolerance of homosexuality."
The Westboro Baptist Church, led by Fred Phelps, do it for the media attention, and I've seen them over the years at different Gay Pride Rallies, penned in and spewing their anti-Gay vitriol. Sometimes, people yell back. Sometimes, they use humor to make their point (like Chris Pesto's amazing "Corduroy Skirts are a Sin" counter-protest!) Sometimes, people sing to drown them out.
And this time, one teen is standing up and saying, Enough. Let's stop this.
Now there's a case being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court about these anti-Gay protests at military funerals where the issue is the balance of the haters' right to free speech versus how much pain that speech can cause. Many people believe that even though the speech may be horrible, the restriction of free speech is a bad road to go down.
Here's Zach's take on it, as reported in The Portland Press Herald,
"Yes, people do have the right to free speech," he said. "But when it starts infringing on somebody else's right, such as the right to gather peacefully, and when the words that they're spreading are harassment and hate speech, that's a First Amendment violation as far as I'm concerned."
I love that analysis. And I hope the Supreme Court Justices agree.
Zach is already getting threatening hate-e-mails from the Westboro church, harassing him for speaking up against them in his school, on TV and in meetings he's organized.
I want to tell Zach that he's inspiring me - and everyone who hears his story - to realize that each one of us has the power to speak up and work to make our world a better place.