Checking out the news coverage with another priest, he was stunned at the fact that Westboro Baptist Church is protesting at Elizabeth Edwards' funeral. Frankly, I am, too, but it doesn't surprise me with this group. I don't see how this is going to help their cause, in fact I think they do more harm than good.
Do they have a 'right' to be there, I guess so. If you frame the question purely in terms of 'rights,' where does their 'right' to speech end with the Edwards' family 'right' to privacy and/or decorum for the funeral of the loss of their mother and friend, a woman who suffered much in her last years?
As a priest, I am often asked about the nature of the magisterium in the Church. Why is it important that we have a teaching office? I think the example of this baptist church gives an eloquent reason as to why we should. Do they have the 'right' to protest, yes; but, I would argue, this is not the most advantageous way to get their point across. (To me, they are doing this much more for their own noteriety than any quest for the truth.) If a Catholic parish would attempt something so callous, I would hope the bishop would call them in and make them stop.
There is a call to conversion, but this approach just raises rancor.
I recently saw an editorial cartoon that argued along the lines of: 'Science flew us to the moon; religions fly planes into buildings.' I would argue that what Westboro Baptist Church is doing leads to more of this kind of approach, especially to secularists who do not know anyone who is truly religious, in the best way.
Anyway, too many other thoughts going through the brain this afternoon to make this much clearer. I am glad this week is over!