Can free speech ever go too far?

Christopher Columbus landed in America exactly 518 years ago this week (if you believe what is said in the history books).

Flash forward 284 years to 1776 and you have the birth of our great mother America – The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, as we call it.

In this new beginning, our forefathers promised freedom. Freedom to practice religion, freedom to bear arms, and ultimately, and arguably most importantly, the freedom of speech.

Over the years, that freedom of speech has been challenged time and time again through conversation, conflict and in many cases war.

And it’s currently being challenged in the Supreme Court, who heard a case Oct. 6 concerning a fundamentalist church’s protests at a fallen soldier’s funeral. This was not the first protest conducted by the Westboro Baptist Church, and it claims it won’t be its last.

The church’s message reeks of ignorance and shows no regard for people it torments. The church members hold signs reading “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” while families mourn the loss of their loved ones.

Their point: the deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are attributable to the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Say what you will about the validity of their beliefs and unimaginable lack of tact, but they have the right to behave like the heinous people they are.

If the Supreme Court rules against the First Amendment when it issues its verdict, it will take a step out onto a slippery slope. A democracy cannot operate without free speech, and any abridgement of that right opens the door to future anti-speech rulings.

While we do not deny that protesting at the funeral of a fallen soldier shows incredibly poor judgment in character, it is ultimately that person’s American right.

It is, after all, what that fallen soldier was fighting to protect.

And it is what our forefathers wanted for America – the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.