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SCOTUS upholds Free Speech in the Westboro Baptist Church case

CaptainObvious

Embrace the Suck
V.I.P.
Supreme Court: 'hurtful speech' of Westboro Baptist Church is protected - CSMonitor.com

In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court held the actions by the Westboro Baptist Church during the military funeral of US Marine Matheew Snyder was protected free speech. Snyder had sued Fred Phelps and a trial court had awarded the Snyder family $11 million dollars. The 4th Circuit overruled that verdict citing free speech protections.

In writing for the majority Chief Justice John Roberts agreed that since this was done in a public place on a matter of public concern, that speech is protected by special protection under the First Amendment. Justice Alito was the lone dissenter.

I agree in most respected with the majority and said so some time back about this case. They were at least 1000 yards away and there is no evidence the family even knew about the protests that were taking place. I find the actions of the Westboro Church reprehensible, but that doesn't mean what they did doesn't warrant free speech protections.

Thoughts?
 

qweerblue

Registered Member
I agree with you, Cap. I was intrigued enough by Alito's dissent to try and track it down, and the text of it is probably out there in full somewhere, but I did find these lifted quotes from it in some articles I read:

"Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case ... Mr. Snyder wanted what is surely the right of any parent who experiences such an incalculable loss: to bury his son in peace, but respondents, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, deprived him of that elementary right."

And:

"Respondents brutally attacked Matthew Snyder, and this attack, which was almost certain to inflict injury, was central to respondents' well-practiced strategy for attracting public attention. Respondents' outrageous conduct caused petitioner great injury, and the court now compounds that injury by depriving petitioner of a judgment that acknowledges the wrong he suffered. In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like petitioner."



I hadn't remembered this until I read it, but Alito was also the lone dissenter in the striking down of a federal law banning "crush" videos. The implication, then, is that Alito seems more willing than his colleagues to restrict speech that is clearly intended to inflict injury and/or that is offensive and that he likely believes it's possible to restrict this kind of speech and still protect debate that is free, open, and genuine.

I think that sounds like a lofty ideal, but the truth is that once we start defining and limiting speech based on notions of what is offensive, it's the proverbial slippery slope... (the crush video stuff is so disturbing, though if I remember right, it wasn't the cruelty to animals that was in question, but the right to distribute "information", no matter the content; something just went through Congress recently in relation to this, though, and I think distribution of the videos *is* banned, now ...)
 

Merc

Problematic Shitlord
V.I.P.
It's easy to hate them and to want them gone but they have the same rights as the rest of us. Denying them would open the doors for free speech to be further restricted.
 

SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
I agree with the decision in spite of my disgust for those idiots and their hate speech.

@ QB: Thanks for posting part of the lone dissenter. Do you have a link to his entire opinion?
 

CaptainObvious

Embrace the Suck
V.I.P.
I agree with you, Cap. I was intrigued enough by Alito's dissent to try and track it down, and the text of it is probably out there in full somewhere, but I did find these lifted quotes from it in some articles I read:

"Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case ... Mr. Snyder wanted what is surely the right of any parent who experiences such an incalculable loss: to bury his son in peace, but respondents, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, deprived him of that elementary right."

And:

"Respondents brutally attacked Matthew Snyder, and this attack, which was almost certain to inflict injury, was central to respondents' well-practiced strategy for attracting public attention. Respondents' outrageous conduct caused petitioner great injury, and the court now compounds that injury by depriving petitioner of a judgment that acknowledges the wrong he suffered. In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like petitioner."



I hadn't remembered this until I read it, but Alito was also the lone dissenter in the striking down of a federal law banning "crush" videos. The implication, then, is that Alito seems more willing than his colleagues to restrict speech that is clearly intended to inflict injury and/or that is offensive and that he likely believes it's possible to restrict this kind of speech and still protect debate that is free, open, and genuine.

I think that sounds like a lofty ideal, but the truth is that once we start defining and limiting speech based on notions of what is offensive, it's the proverbial slippery slope... (the crush video stuff is so disturbing, though if I remember right, it wasn't the cruelty to animals that was in question, but the right to distribute "information", no matter the content; something just went through Congress recently in relation to this, though, and I think distribution of the videos *is* banned, now ...)
I was reading parts of Alito's dissent and I have to say I agree with him in most respects. The problem I have is that there is not evidence the Snyder family saw any of the loons, I mean protesters, during the funeral or that it interferred with it in any way. I do believe there are restrictions to our Free Speech, and if this were done immediately outside the funeral home for example or even in the cemetary, I would agree with him.
 
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