free speech for everyone, even religious crazies

By Jim Stanford on May 21, 2011

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A counter protester along Broadway.

It’s a shame to learn in today’s Daily that a member of our community was arrested for clipping the sign of an abortion protester with his car.

Fortunately, I have not had the slightest contact with the group of religious wack jobs who invaded Jackson this week, even though I visited Whole Grocer, next to their protest site, several times. Perhaps it’s fortuitous that I had to spend a few days in Moose for work. I certainly would have had a few choice words for them had they showed up on my doorstep.

But I support their right to be here and speak their minds, no matter how tasteless and offensive their signs may be. I was disappointed to see friends posting on Facebook along the lines of “I’m for free speech and all, but …”

No buts. This week’s protest is no different than anti-war activists going to Teton Pines and holding up photos of dead soldiers or Iraqis, outside Dick Cheney‘s home. (Come to think of it, too bad the supposedly “pro-life” movement barely raised a peep about the Iraq War.)

Dr. Brent Blue, the target of the protest, struck the right tone at the start of the week when he told the Casper Star-Tribune, “We live in a great country and a great state which allows people from Kansas to come here and exercise their right of free speech, just like the women here have their right to free medical choice without the interference of the state or federal government.”

Law enforcement was right to throw the protesters off school grounds and impose reasonable restrictions to maintain order and safety, while also protecting the medical practice. Several of my friends, rationalizing their objection to the protest, have pointed out that the Kansans sought to expose children to potentially disturbing images.

This tasteless approach merely served to undercut the protesters’ cause, as community opposition intensified and even Right to Life of Teton County disassociated itself from the effort. There are a lot of unpleasant things in life to consider, and I imagine parents get pretty deft at handling them with their kids.

Kudos to the pro-choice advocates for mobilizing, exercising their right to free speech and standing up for community values. Kudos to those who looked the other way. Ignoring these hell-bent crusaders was the best way to thwart them.

(Photo by Stacey Breidenstein)

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Posted under Crime, Democratic Party, Politics, Religion, Republican Party

25 Comments so far

  1. Suzy Q May 21, 2011 7:03 pm

    Breaking news: 2 of them were arrested on the town square today at the Elkfest! The police seem to think the group has left town, and they released the two they arrested after they promised to RETURN to answer charges. (arg!) Check out the News and Guide for the story.

    They were such creeps. They said awful things to me. Totally un-Christ-like things….

    So glad to see them go …

  2. js May 21, 2011 8:36 pm

    From the Jackson Police Department press release issued today:

    On Friday, the Town of Jackson filed a request for injunctive relief to move the protest two blocks off the Town Square during the Elkfest event. The request was granted by the District Court. Two leaders of Operation Save America failed to comply with the Court’s order and were arrested by the Jackson Police Department. Both Operation Save America leaders were booked at the Teton County Jail and released after signing a promise to appear in court.

    Law enforcement and Town officials appreciate the patience, tolerance and respect demonstrated by our community over the last several days.

  3. D May 21, 2011 9:53 pm

    Anyone truely worried about the National Debt should welcome abortion with open arms and offer to pay.

  4. Greg May 22, 2011 9:13 am

    I agree with you (as usual) Jim. But, I will say this. This is the first time I have passed a group like this with a 4 year old in the backseat. Your reaction is completely different when you are in that situation. Free speech and decency sometimes do not go hand-in-hand.

  5. j May 22, 2011 3:33 pm

    We need to come together as a community in the things that we share – concern for young woman with unplanned pregnancies and how we can help & support them as they face difficult circumstances. Not being divided & labelling or hurting one another.

    check out http://www.turningpointjh.com which helps people with unplanned pregnancies, I think they provide both medical services & counselling.

    My 11 yr old and I drove by the protestors and we had a chance to discuss this issue. When I was 10 weeks into my pregnancy with him, trouble started, and because I was a person wanting a child, I had a whole team of doctors & nurses working hard to save his life. At just under 6 months pregnant, premature labor began. Again, because of my choice to be a parent, the amazing staff at St John’s hospital did everything they could to save his life. Today, he is a happy, healthy 11 year old, after all the complications, born after his due date, healthy & well! We thank God for the gift of his life to us.

    Sadly, in our society, we do not agree on when life begins. Another woman, at 6 months in her pregnancy, can choose to have an abortion.

    As a community, let’s commit to providing support, encouragement, kindness, love, and respect to people in difficult circumstances and give them the freedom to be supported before, during, and after whatever action they choose.

    Choose respect, love, help, and encouragement. (not judging others, anger & hatred with those we disagree with, but rather open discussions & dialogues on how we can help one another & the things we agree on) thanks jackson hole!

  6. joe May 22, 2011 5:57 pm

    this blog just keeps getting better. an incredible simply intelligent answer. women, ain,t they amazing.

  7. becky May 22, 2011 6:58 pm

    I often read your blog and enjoy it despite my difference of opinions/beliefs :)…never have commented, but this has been such an issue for me this week. I am a follower of Christ, I am against abortions. However, I totally agree w/the statement of the Teton Co.Right to Life and am soooo thankful they issued that statment. There was nothing scriptural, Biblical or Christ-like in how those protesters behaved. Nothing of what they did was an appropriate reflection of Jesus and completely defeated their purpose. As a Christian, it was offensive to me and appalling to think that people now have such a horrible view of Jesus. I apologize for them and truly hope that people here will not hold their behavior up as the norm for true Christians.

  8. Earl May 22, 2011 11:43 pm

    Why Jackson?

  9. Suzy Q May 23, 2011 9:16 am

    Earl, I believe Dr. Brent Blue might be the only option for women considering abortion in the entire state of Wyoming. Operation Whatchamacallit was to try to make Wyoming an abortion-free state by terrorizing us all. You can Google their web site, and find out what their agenda is exactly…or what they say their agenda is. That is why they chose Jackson. Their focus (they say) was Brent Blue. (whose office already apparently has been bombed by these types of fanatics before.) I believe a bomb sniffing dog was called in from another county for this demonstration. See below:

    From January 2003 Casper Star Tribune article: “In 1995, Richard Thomas Andrews, an anti-abortion activist who later pleaded guilty to attacking several abortion clinics in California, Montana and Idaho, bombed Blue’s Emerg-A-Care clinic in Jackson, which was shut down for a week. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms cites a total of 209 incidents of bombings and arsons against abortion clinics between 1983 and 1998. The Emerg-A-Care bombing is the only clinic bombing or arson on record in Wyoming.”

  10. js May 23, 2011 9:59 am

    Dr. Blue’s Emerg-A-Care provides a wide range of affordable medical care for the community. Abortion is a minor part of his practice. He used to be my doctor for a few years, and I know him to be a great guy.

  11. joe May 23, 2011 11:58 am

    I think in the rest of the state its called confidential surgery at half the price.

  12. Ken May 23, 2011 12:13 pm

    Like many others who have commented on this tasteless protest my objection to the Kansas group has nothing to do with the debate over abortion. Thank goodness the 9th District Judge got it – a photo of an aborted fetus is obscene to any young person and may actually cause mental harm to a young child. It’s really that simple. If this group wanted to protest pornography would they display giant photos of lewd sexual acts? I had to actually swerve my vehicle to avoid one moron as he walked in the center of rushour traffic trying to push pamphlets through open car windows endangering the lives of those of us with a brain. Call this for what it is – self righteous idiocy, well beyond the right of free speech.

  13. Kate May 23, 2011 3:09 pm

    Fortunately for the sleepy town of Jackson, these types of displays haven’t been seen much before. As a Chicago native, I’ve cringed at one too many dead babies on posters, sometimes seen daily on highway overpasses on my commute to work. Maybe I’m desensitized, but I completely ignored these nuts with their signs. I find it odd all the attention paid to these attention-seekers. The law is the law. I’m not talking about free speech. I’m talking about a woman’s right to safely terminate her unwanted pregnancy. Done. Settled. Our community’s reaction was less “we don’t want your kind here” and more “we’re scared as hell you or others like you are going to enter our magical little bubble again.” Now, with all the hubbub, they certainly will.

  14. Free Speech & Elk Fest May 24, 2011 6:59 am

    The photos were totally inappropriate for young children. The arrest wasn’t much better. Free Speech on a town square, even during Elk Fest, should be allowed. I can think of a few exception but they weren’t in play during the arrest.

  15. chris May 24, 2011 11:22 pm

    Oh the sheltered lives of the JH community. Stop hiding behind the beauty of your surroundings the true tragedy of abortion, more properly called terminating or killing a fetus, not the more kind term aborting. The right to choose has caused timeless pain to countless women, manipulated poor neighborhoods not to procreate, along with killing the unborn.

    And you’re concerned our teenagers may be mentally disturbed by seeing the true pictures of killed fetuses? I’m sure the video games, movies, internet surfing is causing more long term affects. Shouldn’t our teenagers see the affect and risk of their promiscuous behavior? Or will you as parents shelter them from that also?

    The in-your-face approach is only necessitated by the hiding of truth that main stream media and your bloggers but on terminating fetuses.

  16. Heather Cosby May 25, 2011 7:27 am

    In addition to the posters viewed by the kids on their bus route (my 5 year old asked me why they were showing pictures of cut up babies), the group also printed fliers about Chuck Harris, PA, Dr. Blue’s partner at the clinic. The flier petitioned people to go to Chuck’s home and try to convince him to stop being a partner of a baby murderer. The group distributed the fliers throughout Rafter J, where solicitation is not prohibited. The fliers contained Chuck’s home and work address, which in my opinion, violated his basic right to privacy, as well as those of his neighbors. I live a few doors down from Chuck, and we had Sheriffs on our street patrolling throughout the week. Even the bomb sniffing dog made an appearance. I felt like these actions crossed the line of free speech.

  17. D May 25, 2011 9:13 am

    @ Chris
    Abortion is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I would rather see a unwanted fetus(not baby) aborted then a child abused and neglected for 18+ years. The trouble is the trash in this country bread faster then people who understand what it takes to properly raise a child in the world. If it was my choice we would give out free abortion coupons to anyone that wants one. Follow that up with an option to be sterilized for a $5000 tax credit then we may get somewhere! Currently we reward people who can’t afford the kids they have to have more kids by increasing their welfare and benefits, why not reward them to have less kids it makes sense to me. Unfortunately it’s taboo and the current culture will continue. Add all this to the unimaginable cases of incest and rape and mothers health it’s hard to imagine why abortion is even debated. If your imaginary friend tells u to keep your pregnancy I have nothing to say about it, so I would appreciate it if you had nothing to say about what I decide. Please keep your religious bs to yourself! Ultimately even in the case of a married couple it is the women’s choice it’s her body and it’s not up to you, me, “god”, or anyone else.

  18. chris May 25, 2011 10:43 am

    Tell your 5 year old the truth. The pictures are a result of individuals choosing to terminate their fetuses. Or the pro choice position; it’s ok because they are not really babies.

    Living far from large cities, does have its advantages. In many large American cities, 5 year old kids get driven by homeless beggars, drug dealers, gangs, and large strip joint signs. Don’t our children deserve to know the truth and eventually form an opinion of their own? Abortion is a very dirty industry. But the dirty side is wrongly hidden in the name of freedom of rights. As an example, have you ever thought of where the bio waste truck from the clinic dumps the fetuses, of course not because most of us don’t want to know?

    These protestors have dedicated their own time to try and save fetuses/lives, by taking a desperate and aggressive approach in educating people. And the sign says “Hate doesn’t live in Jackson.” They try and save lives and you call them religious wacko jobs and creeps, which hey, sounds a lot like hate.

    Tell the truth about the pictures and those that profit from the industry. Let your school public school libraries include the book unPlanned.

    To the Teton County Right to Life group, “get some thicker skin” and support the new movement.

  19. chris May 25, 2011 2:38 pm

    @ D
    Hey D, what part of part of my comments said anything about religion. You as an american have the right to believe in Social Engineering and considering parts of our society as trash. That’s not the hate I believe in and it has nothing to do with religion!

  20. Carson May 25, 2011 3:48 pm

    Personally, I’d like to see Mountain View Baptist Church pay for all the police overtime that their guests required.

  21. cr May 25, 2011 4:17 pm

    @Chris THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU
    A woman makes the choice to abort for many rasons. The decision is hers to make, I’ve seen many neglected children that are kept by unfit mothers in order to keep getting a pay day. I was told by one of these free-loaders on her 5th pregnancy that she had to have another child in order to keep receiving her benefits from the state. REALLY??
    “Consider adoption” says the Right to Lifers.Some young women are not emotionally mature enough to handle 9 months of pregnancy and then giving up the child. This choice should be made with the help of trusted, informed adults.
    Unless you’ve had an unwanted pregnancy, you don’t know what a woman may be going through, only she can make the choice that is best for her.
    More education on the risks of sexual activity is needed in order for young adults to be informed of the consequences.

  22. andy May 27, 2011 8:26 am

    pro choice should start, in my opinion, with your choice to have sex at the beginning. Shouldn’t you take the precautions of preventing a pregnancy before having sex? There are so many options to choose from, and this wouldn’t even come up. Unwanted pregnancies can be changed if you take the right steps

  23. Chris May 27, 2011 5:11 pm

    The arrest today of a man who planned killing of a doctor Wisconsin was from a Kansas anti-abortion group. No word if it was the same people that were here, but how many radical Kansas groups are there?

  24. js May 27, 2011 5:36 pm

    He was from Wisconsin. http://huff.to/kvfTVL

  25. Jack June 24, 2011 2:08 pm

    So let me see if I have this argument straight here:

    1. Abortions are fine.
    2. Pictures of abortions are baaad.
    3. Get upset about the pictures.

    You abortion pushers make no sense. If there is nothing wrong with the procedure there should be nothing obscene about the photographic record.

    The real reason you can’t stand the pictures is they tell it like it is.

    It’s a lot harder to argue for abortions when you know what that word really means.

    Keep showing those pics! It is the BEST argument.

    “Personally, I’d like to see Mountain View Baptist Church pay for all the police overtime that their guests required.”
    Too bad. I don’t notice lefty anti-war troublemakers offering to pony up when they create police costs.

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