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Reciting the politics of hate, chapter and verse

One of the benefits, if you can call it that, of publishing a newspaper is receiving mountains of junk each day — mail, e-mail, faxes.

From scams to sex drugs, it’s an amazing pile of steaming excrement, at the very top of which are the almost daily pronouncements of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka.

Westboro’s recent target: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, condemned in a fax blast as filthy and gay-infested — except, of course, Westboro didn’t use the word “gay.”

Westboro’s messages invariably conclude: “God hates . . .” naming in offensive terms whomever it is Westboro is targeting that week.

What God really hates is hate itself, and Westboro is nothing but hate — hatred of Jews, gays, priests, President Obama, and virtually everyone on the planet except the accused killer of Dr. George Tiller.

We are neither gay nor Mormon. We are both pro-life and pro-choice. We can put up with offensive ads about sex aids, crooks phishing to get our credit card numbers, and con artists trying to lure us into scams. Westboro, however, makes us ashamed to be part of the same species.

Yet that’s exactly why we must allow a place for Westboro’s venom. Free speech means nothing if all it tolerates is speech we condone. The words and actions we hate most — from Westboro’s rants to cowardly, treasonous flag burning — are exactly what we must ensure always have a place in our society.

So bring it on, Westboro and everyone else we detest. We think you’re a bunch of — well, a whole lot worse than what you call the people you attack. We won’t read your faxes. We won’t join your protests. And we may very well spit on your counterparts on the other end of the political spectrum if we see them desecrating a flag. But we’ll defend to the death everyone’s right to be wrong.

It’s when the radical fringe can’t show their true colors and can’t speak their minds, perverted though they might be, that these same radicals start acting out instead of speaking out.

Tolerance of hate is the price we pay lest we all become the next Dr. Tiller. Forced silence may temporarily repress an idea, but it almost always will eventually erupt in violence.

— Eric Meyer

Last modified July 1, 2009

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