Alex Blaze

Westboro Baptist Church Wins Supreme Court Case

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 02, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: First Amendment, Fred Phelps, free speech, troops, Westboro Baptist Church

The Supreme Court has ruled that a civil judgment against the Westboro Baptist Church, westboro-baptist-church.jpgin a case brought by a father of a guy killing Iraq whose funeral the Phelpses protested, can't stand because of the First Amendment:

"What Westboro said, in the whole context of how and where it chose to say it, is entitled to 'special protection' under the First Amendment," Roberts wrote, "and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous."

It was an 8-1 decision, meaning that it was probably pretty cut-and-dry when it came to the law involved. Alito dissented.

All I can say is that it's good to hear that the First Amendment is still in effect. The reason this case even got that far was because the WBC is hated by so many different people: queers and the left hate them because they're homophobes, liberals and the mainstream media hate them because they protest The Troops' funerals, and conservatives hate them because they make conservatives look bad. But, no, just being hated doesn't mean the First Amendment no longer applies to someone. (Also, to pre-empt claims that they disrupted the funeral, there was never any proof that anyone in the funeral heard them.)

Not that it's much, though. Protestors still get arrested and pre-emptively arrested and free speech zones are set up far away major conferences for protesters while people who are even suspected of being protesters are mass-arrested. That's if people can get past the fear of being Tased and tear-gassed and arrested and beat that keeps them from protesting, and that's if they can even find a good reason to protest in our confused political discourse and propagandizing culture.

Sure, there's still a formal right to protest and people like the Phelpses who find a dumb reason can still get small groups together and say stupid things. Heck, you can get a big group together to protest if you have a permit and you're protesting everyone being so partisan or your neighbors getting access to health care. Those sorts of protests don't threaten anyone important.

But if the unemployed, underemployed, impoverished, and exploited got together and actually protested the people who were making them suffer? Yeah, that'd be shut down and those eight justices wouldn't be able to do much about it. Most tactics used to shut down protests of Republican conventions and capitalist summits are illegal anyway, so the possibility of a Supreme Court ruling several years later isn't going to stop anyone.

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Rick Sutton | March 2, 2011 11:40 AM

Well, well, well. CJ Roberts gets one right. Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in a while.

Sure, the Phelpses are disgusting. But we have to protect the disgusting, so we can all maintain free speech. The world has made its judgment on the Phelpses--give them enough leeway, they'll shoot themselve sin the foot somehow. The Phelps daughter is an attorney--she's no dummy. Fred is a whackjob, but hey...we are talking about them, right? That's what they want.

But I have to say about our "esteemed" CJ: what a f*$#@* hypocrite. There. Got it out of my system.

Who was the one vote? Just curious. If you say Clarence Thomas I may have a stroke.

I think it would be relatively easy to evidentially prove that they are an intimidating and imposing force. Is intimidation protected under the first ammendment?

I think it'd be hard to prove that. If anyone were actually intimidated out of going to that funeral, it would have been mentioned in the suit.

Angela Brightfeather | March 2, 2011 3:42 PM

The sword of free speech cuts in both directions.
What should be done to deal with "radical" Christians, should be done by "non-radical" Christians who are being indirectly included in the same religion and beliefs as these nut jobs

People should be standing out in front of regular Christian churches every weekend with rainbow signs and loudspeakers, asking why moderate Christian groups aren't trying to handle the group that is besmirching their reputation and standing. Why aren't moderate Christians making these idiots stop what they are doing, and if they don't, how are they any less complicit with those acts being carried out in the name of the same religious belief?

It isn't our responsibility to anti-protest this group. Regular Christians should be pressuring these idiots and if they refuse, then we should be calling them out for not being responsible for cleaning up their own backyard.

I agree, and that is protected free speech to protest in front of a church (chicago caved and admitted it was just a month ago). I don't know about the loudspeakers if you're making a real disturbance in the entire neighborhood, but I don't see why people aren't doing more of those protests.

Maybe what should happen is for The GLBT community form up a Free speech parade every day an until the quiet time law in WBC home town and Hundreds of Us to walk around their property with Signs that are extremely offensive to them.. Like pictures of men getting married and kissing in a church.. etc.. All of Us chanting loudly at the compound walking round and round day after day after day after day.. maybe even some of the motorcycle guys who help drown out the protesters at the funerals do drive arounds the neighborhood.. They want Free speech i say we give it to them day after day after day .. In the military it's interrogation tactic Like they did with Panama.. Imagine if you will the WBC unable to hold church services or at least be bother by the chants and posters and motorcycles encircling their Hated ..

Yeah, but you'd have to hang out wherever they live all the time. That's punishment for the protestors.

cyberdraco | March 2, 2011 7:32 PM

Ignore them- they want attention and money and the people keep giving it to them.

Wouldn't hurt for religious leaders to condemn them either...but I do not believe in miracles so let them drown into obscurity.

Free Speech. Fine.

But can't we have SOME laws about area/location?!?!

I would like to think that the place where you BURY YOUR LOVED ONES should be one of the very few times and areas where "free speech" can be banned. They can spew all they want in a million other places besides THIS ONE PLACE.

Some states have laws about area and location, preventing all protests within 1000 feet of a funeral or something. I know Arizona's got some attention because of the funerals after the Giffords shooting.

The Court didn't rule on the validity of those laws, but I think Ohio's got a federal judge to OK it.

NBC Nightly News covered this story, and said that 44 states now have laws regarding protesting at funerals -- I suspect they require things like the protesters have to be a certain distance away, maybe can protest before and after funeral but not during, that sort of thing. The recent SCOTUS ruling apparently doesn't affect these laws.

I think when it's all said and done, the words coming from the mouth of Fred Phelps, and the protests do more good for the LGBT community than they do for his own "church." People see it as pure unmitigated hatred having nothing to do with religion.

Harassment by religious extremist

Jehovah's Witnesses instigated court decisions in 1942 which involved cursing a police officer calling him a fascist and to get in your face at the door steps,....this same JW 1942 court decision upheld infamous Phelps hate church in 2011
Danny Haszard