January 12, 2011

Reflections on laws limiting the WBC

Slightly conflicting comments to my previous post caused me to stop and think. By the way I wrote the post the reader likely gets the idea that I am in favor of the State of Arizona’s move to enact laws limiting 1A rights for the pathetic fools of the Westboro Baptist Church. To a large degree that is correct, but from another, very libertarian perspective, perhaps not.

In her comment, MiniKat states:

”I find the idea of states enacting legislation to limit WBC's protesting both good and disturbing.

Good on the hand that they're a bunch of ignominious clods that really need a reality check. Also good that it's an example of state's rights. Disturbing on the other hand that worries about First Amendment rights."

Kat is correct that the state enacting laws limiting enumerated rights is an endeavor fraught with peril. However, individual rights do not, and should never trump the common good.

Although there is no discernable difference today, three of the original 13 colonies were chartered as commonwealths. The term ”Commonwealth”, or ”Commonweal” literally means common good.

John Adams, writing in the preamble to the Constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, provided that the body politic (the state) should provide for the citizens ”the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquility, their natural rights and the blessings of life.” Adams further describes the body politic as a "social compact" in which the people agree to be governed by laws designed for the "common good."

The Massachusetts Constitution was the first document of its sort ever written, and was used as the basis for the U.S. Constitution. Our founders recognized that there would be instances where the State must enact laws placing limits on individual rights with the intent of providing for the common good. As Adams wrote, "the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity, and happiness."

Shouting "FIRE" in a crowded theatre is a violation of law; so should be the taunting and tormenting of grieving families.


Old NFO said...

Concur- the common good SHOULD trump individuals...

MiniKat said...

I agree. I'm just wondering where the "common good" ends and too much government trying to regulate our lives begins.

I will indeed be interesting to see how this pans out.

Mainly though I believe I'm more saddened (and disgusted) with this type of legal action being necessary to protect people as they grieve. This should not be an issue, but in the last few decades things like this are starting to be more commonplace.

Mule Breath said...

Where common good ends and intrusion begins is the neverending source of SCOTUS fodder. An unbiased Court should be able to maintain fair balance between Constitutional merit and popularity.