Free Speech at Funerals or Unethcial behavior? In Ethics where do you draw the line?

October 6, 2010

Is it possible that what is ethical behavior for one person or group is unethical to another?  Now the question doesn’t relate to dramatically different cultures – the question relates to Americans vs Americans.  Beyond the issue of ethics – the question of law is being raised today related to that very issue.

According to a CNN news report:

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in a legal battle that pits the privacy rights of grieving families and the free speech rights of demonstrators.

In 2006, members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested 300 feet from a funeral for Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder in Westminster, Maryland, carrying signs reading “God hates you” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Among the teachings of the Topeka, Kansas-based fundamentalist church founded by pastor Fred Phelps is the belief that the deaths of U.S. soldiers is God’s punishment for “the sin of homosexuality.”

Albert Snyder, Matthew’s father, said his son was not gay and the protesters should not have been at the funeral.

The case centers on Free Speech and whether the members of the church have the right to express their opinions at the funeral(s) of US Servicemen.  My question focuses not so much on the legality of the issue, but more on the ethics of their choices.

ETHICS defined is that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.

So here’s the question:

Is the free expression of a religious belief that interferes with comfort associated with a dignified funeral an “ethical” action?  If not, how does one reconcile ethics on one hand with free speech on the other?

Chime in and register your opinion!