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Thread: SCOTUS Sides With Westboro Baptist

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    Senior Member huntinman's Avatar
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    Default SCOTUS Sides With Westboro Baptist

    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.
    Bill Davis

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    Senior Member BonMallari's Avatar
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    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
    All my Exes live in Texas

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    Senior Member dnf777's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BonMallari View Post
    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.
    God Bless PFC Jamie Harkness. The US Army's newest PFC, but still our neighbor's little girl!

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    Senior Member BonMallari's Avatar
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    does this ruling insure that we could protest at a mosque when the muslim faithful are bowing to mecca in the east
    All my Exes live in Texas

    Quote Originally Posted by lanse brown View Post
    A few things that I learned still ring true. "Lanse when you get a gift, say thank you and walk away. When you get a screwing walk away. You are going to get a lot more screwings than gifts"

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    Senior Member Uncle Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dnf777 View Post


    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
    When the one you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.

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    Senior Member dnf777's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Bill View Post
    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??
    God Bless PFC Jamie Harkness. The US Army's newest PFC, but still our neighbor's little girl!

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    Senior Member Clay Rogers's Avatar
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    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.
    RIP SGT. David Blake Williams KIA 22 Mar 2008 Iraq


    Every day should be Veteran's day.


    "They say War is Hell, but I have to disagree. War is easy. It's the living afterwards thats hell." Author Unknown

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    Quote Originally Posted by stumpholehunter View Post
    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.

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    Senior Member cotts135's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stumpholehunter View Post
    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.

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    Senior Member dnf777's Avatar
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    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.
    God Bless PFC Jamie Harkness. The US Army's newest PFC, but still our neighbor's little girl!

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