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huntinman
03-02-2011, 12:45 PM
Westboro Funeral Pickets Are Protected Speech, High Court Rules
By Lee Ross

Published March 02, 2011 | FoxNews.com

The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, ruled Wednesday that members of the renegade Westboro Baptist Church have a constitutionally protected right to protest military funerals even though their demonstrations are widely despised and deplored.

The case presented the justices with a high-profile question about the breadth of First Amendment speech and assembly protections. A majority of justices ruled that these fundamental rights outweigh the concerns of grieving family members who would rather not deal with what they say are obnoxious protesters from the Kansas church.

"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and -- as it did here -- inflict great pain," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority opinion. "On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation we have chosen a different course -- to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."

Justice Samuel Alito was the only dissent, writing that the church protests simply go too far.

"Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case," Alito wrote. "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 therefore respectfully dissent."

The ruling upholds a lower-court decision to invalidate a $5 million judgment in favor of the father of a dead Marine whose funeral was targeted by the protesters.

For years, the Westboro protesters have popped up at places across the country to voice their displeasure with government policies they think promote homosexuality. They did so in 2006 at the funeral for Matthew Snyder, a Marine killed in Iraq.

Matthew Snyder was not gay and had no connection to the Westboro cause, but the funeral provided the protesters an opportunity to speak out against government policies.

Snyder's father, Albert Snyder, didn't want anything do with the picketers when he buried his son.

"I want them to stop doing this to our military men and women," Snyder told Fox News in October before the arguments. "I want the judges to hear that this case is not about free speech, it's about targeted harassment."

The ruling acknowledged Westboro's spurious choice of location for its protest. Nonetheless, Roberts concluded that "Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials."

In the days leading up to the funeral, Westboro parishioners, including Fred Phelps, notified local authorities of their intention to picket the service. They were kept 1,000 feet away from the church and because of the use of an alternative entrance for church-goers there was no disruption to the memorial.

Seven protestors held numerous signs including some that read, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Hates Fags," and "You're Going to Hell." There were no arrests.

Snyder filed a lawsuit against Phelps based on the protest and a subsequent post on the Westboro website about his son.

A jury awarded Snyder nearly $11 million in damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy. That award was later cut in half and then the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals set aside the decision in its entirety ruling that the protests were absolutely protected by the First Amendment.

Wednesday's ruling by the Supreme Court upholds the Fourth Circuit's decision but Roberts made clear on several occasions that his ruling is limited to the specific facts of this case. Roberts carefully noted that the ruling doesn't address the First Amendment viability of a Maryland law, passed after the Snyder funeral, banning all funeral protests.

A group of 21 news organizations joined a brief defending Westboro's case.

While calling their views "inexplicable and hateful," they expressed concern that a ruling against the church would chill the activities of anyone who wants to speak out on a controversial issue and "threatens to expand dramatically the risk of liability for news media coverage and commentary."

One of the media groups that joined the brief is Dow Jones whose parent company also owns Fox News.

BonMallari
03-02-2011, 01:54 PM
I obviously hate what Westboro does but SCOTUS got the ruling correct AS IT APPLIES to the 1st Amendment..we may not like the content but the 1st amendment has to be upheld, even though it covers pornography, hate speech, and dealings here on POTUS forum

dnf777
03-02-2011, 03:09 PM
I obviously hate what Westboro does but SCOTUS got the ruling correct AS IT APPLIES to the 1st Amendment..we may not like the content but the 1st amendment has to be upheld, even though it covers pornography, hate speech, and dealings here on POTUS forum

Gotta agree with ya. At least as the law stands right now.
Seems odd that protestors at abortion clinics have strict guidelines applied to them, that have withstood adjudication, in order to not interfere with the legal proceedings that occur at the clinic.

Why are the proceedings that occur at a funeral, ie mourning, not protected from interruption or disruption just the same? Something like "they can protest all they want, so long as their disrespectful and disruptive chants and signs are not audible/visible from the funeral area?

Those cretons who masquerade as "church goers" haven't a shred of human decency, to disrupt such an event.

BonMallari
03-02-2011, 03:16 PM
does this ruling insure that we could protest at a mosque when the muslim faithful are bowing to mecca in the east

Uncle Bill
03-02-2011, 03:32 PM
Why are the proceedings that occur at a funeral, ie mourning, not protected from interruption or disruption just the same? Something like "they can protest all they want, so long as their disrespectful and disruptive chants and signs are not audible/visible from the funeral area?





This paragraph was apparently beyond your comprehension?


The ruling acknowledged Westboro's spurious choice of location for its protest. Nonetheless, Roberts concluded that "Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials."

Ever see any abortion clinics on PUBLIC property?

I despise anyone using the constitution for their own despicable and repugnant activities. Same as I look upon criminals that use the 'law' to protect their 'rights'. It's the unintended consequences that frequently occur when good intentions are misused by the ungodly for their agenda.

UB

dnf777
03-02-2011, 03:44 PM
This paragraph was apparently beyond your comprehension?


The ruling acknowledged Westboro's spurious choice of location for its protest. Nonetheless, Roberts concluded that "Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials."

Ever see any abortion clinics on PUBLIC property?

I despise anyone using the constitution for their own despicable and repugnant activities. Same as I look upon criminals that use the 'law' to protect their 'rights'. It's the unintended consequences that frequently occur when good intentions are misused by the ungodly for their agenda.

UB

Bill,
I'm really working hard to abide by my efforts not to call names or insult, but I will do so.

I don't think you even understand that we agree on this issue?

Yes, almost all abortion clinics I've seen on the news are on or adjacent to public property. And certainly the protesters are. All I'm saying is that if the actions and delicate emotional state of abortion clinic personnel and patients are worthy of protection, shouldn't a fallen soldier and his family be accorded the same respect under the law???

I'm not sure you're even cognizant of what you're saying, so I'll just stick to my utter disbelief that some people are so cruel, as to disrupt the funeral of someone's son, daughter, brother or sister.

I certainly hope you're not siding with the Westboro Church here??

Clay Rogers
03-02-2011, 07:16 PM
I agree with SCOTUS, Westboro has every right to do so according to the constitution. But I have every to kick their a$$ if they try it in Tarboro NC, according to my constitution.

ducknwork
03-02-2011, 09:31 PM
I agree with SCOTUS, Westboro has every right to do so according to the constitution. But I have every to kick their a$$ if they try it in Tarboro NC, according to my constitution.

I'd be glad to ride up there and give you a hand.:D

cotts135
03-03-2011, 05:30 AM
I agree with SCOTUS, Westboro has every right to do so according to the constitution. But I have every to kick their a$$ if they try it in Tarboro NC, according to my constitution.
I am sure emotionally all of here feel the same way. Doing what you would like to do is twisted logic though and if carried through makes you even worse than them.

dnf777
03-03-2011, 08:03 AM
okay. Here's the solution. Its legal and peaceful and do-able.

The state national guard of whatever state they are currently protesting in will be deployed on a humanitarian training mission of goodwill. To ensure that the Nat.Guard is mission-ready, they will deploy a HumVee with a diesel generator in tow, to be test run right outside anywhere the Westboro Church is congregating and trying to worship or conduct church business.

For those of you who have served, you know what that means.

And hey, its all in the name of mission-readiness, to help people in time of natural disasters and widespread power outages.

BonMallari
03-03-2011, 08:22 AM
Here is another solution, quit giving them the media attention that they seem to crave

BrianW
03-03-2011, 08:25 AM
Wouldn't a HumVee w/ diesel still disrupt the funeral/memorial of the fallen. :(

dnf777
03-03-2011, 08:26 AM
Here is another solution, quit giving them the media attention that they seem to crave

Absolutely! I don't support a legislated or exec ordered blackout, as that would be unConstitutional as well, but it would be nice to see the media voluntarily black out all coverage of their protests whatsoever.

It would also be nice for a money truck to spill its contents in my front yard. ;) Neither is likely to happen.

Clay Rogers
03-03-2011, 08:33 AM
I am sure emotionally all of here feel the same way. Doing what you would like to do is twisted logic though and if carried through makes you even worse than them.

Yea, that doesn't bother me. And I am not much of a fighter, never have been, but if they would have tried that stuff at Blake's funeral, all this would have stopped in 08.:cool:

Clay Rogers
03-03-2011, 08:34 AM
Here is another solution, quit giving them the media attention that they seem to crave

Not crave, need. And you are right, they would just fade away. Same thing with Charlie Sheen. Most of the time, when people have no one to listen to them, they shut up and disappear.

BrianW
03-03-2011, 08:35 AM
Roberts carefully noted that the ruling doesn't address the First Amendment viability of a Maryland law, passed after the Snyder funeral, banning all funeral protests.

So how do you think the SCOTUS will rule on that if, more likely when it get there?

BonMallari
03-06-2011, 10:34 AM
I just watched Fox News Sunday w/ Chris Wallace, something I like to do every Sunday morning while having breakfast..their guest was Ms Phelps from the Westboro Church

I have NEVER seen a more VILE, DESPICABLE,LUNATIC person on tv, I almost wanted to throw something at my new tv..the absolute worst guest I have ever seen on that show..gets my blood pressure elevated just replaying the crap that came out of her mouth..

I stated that the SCOTUS got the ruling correct but allowing people like her from spewing her hatred should be against the law :-x:-x