Author Topic: Should Westboro Baptist Church be Guaranteed First Amendment Protection?  (Read 18381 times)

Offline Kerry

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Westboro Baptist Church
Protest Case Heads to High Court


TIME Magazine

8 March 2010


http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1970564,00.html


Washington: The Supreme Court is getting involved in the legal fight over the anti-gay protesters who show up at military funerals with inflammatory messages like "Thank God for dead soldiers."

The court agreed Monday to consider whether the protesters' message, no matter how provocative and upsetting, is protected by the First Amendment.

Members of a Kansas-based church have picketed military funerals to spread their belief that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

The justices will hear an appeal from the father of a Marine killed in Iraq to reinstate a $5 million verdict against the protesters, after they picketed outside his son's funeral in Maryland.

A jury in Baltimore awarded Albert Snyder damages for emotional distress and invasion of privacy, but a federal appeals court threw out the verdict. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the signs contained "imaginative and hyperbolic rhetoric" protected by the First Amendment.

The funeral for Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder in Westminster, Md., was among many that have been picketed by members of the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Westboro pastor Fred Phelps and other members have used the funeral protests to spread their belief that U.S. deaths in the Iraq war are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. One of the signs at Snyder's funeral combined the U.S. Marine Corps motto with a slur against gay men.

Other signs carred by members of the Topeka, Kan.-based church said, "America is Doomed," "God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11," "Priests Rape Boys" and "Thank God for IEDs," a reference to the roadside bombs that have killed many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The case will be argued in the fall.


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Offline Clyde-B

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Isn't preaching hate inflammatory rhetoric?  Should that be any more legal than shouting fire in a crowded theater?

Online CellarDweller

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My opinion, no.


Tell him when l come up to him and ask to play the record, l'm gonna say: ''Voulez-vous jouer ce disque?''
'Voulez-vous, will you kiss my dick?'
Will you play my record? One-track mind!

Offline milomorris

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If the KKK can do their thing, so can these folks.

Welcome to America.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Offline David In Indy

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I'd love to answer no to your question Kerry, but I must answer yes. They are entitled to their free speech, no matter how hateful or appalling or repellent it may be.

As Milo pointed out, the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) have been guaranteed their free speech - they hold annual rallies here in Indianapolis both on the steps of the state capitol and also down on Monument Circle - and so the Phelps family/Westboro Baptist Church should be allowed their first amendment rights as well.

If we start telling people like the Phelps and the KKK that they are not allowed their first amendment protection then who will be next? It is a very slippery slope, in my opinion.

Let them talk. Every time they open up their mouths they prove to more people just how idiotic they really are. Their first amendment rights will end up dooming them in the long run. :-\

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Offline Monika

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I'd love to answer no to your question Kerry, but I must answer yes. They are entitled to their free speech, no matter how hateful or appalling or repellent it may be.

As Milo pointed out, the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) have been guaranteed their free speech - they hold annual rallies here in Indianapolis both on the steps of the state capitol and also down on Monument Circle - and so the Phelps family/Westboro Baptist Church should be allowed their first amendment rights as well.

If we start telling people like the Phelps and the KKK that they are not allowed their first amendment protection then who will be next? It is a very slippery slope, in my opinion.

Let them talk. Every time they open up their mouths they prove to more people just how idiotic they really are. Their first amendment rights will end up dooming them in the long run. :-\


I basically agree, but there is a line that has to be drawn somewhere. I´m not sure if Westboro Baptist Church crosses that line or not, but for me the line should be drawn at agitation against an ethnic group/sexual minority etc.
In most west european countries there are laws against it, and it has my full support.

Offline louisev

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what the Westboro nutcases cannot do is invade the privacy of others, and they have been skirting the line by attempting to prevent mourners from getting to funerals for fallen veterans.  What will happen is that they will have more and more restraining and protection orders put on them forcing them to stay further and further from the site of memorial services.  In the case of Canada, all of the members of that Church when they attempted to cross the border to go to a protest at a funeral, were denied entry as undesirables.    They have gotten very close to harassment, and it is up to local authorities to make sure they don't conduct public assemblies that disturb the peace.

The most effective counter I have seen to this was a male Australian TV personality went up to one of the senior Phelpses who was protesting a funeral for someone who was gay and began to flirt with him and make sexual compliments and the man panicked and ran away.  THAT is probably one of the most effective counter-demonstrations - they could have a gay kiss-in counterdemonstration and all the Phelpses would get sick and flee.
“Mr. Coyote always gets me good, boy,”  Ellery said, winking.  “Almost forgot what life was like before I got me my own personal coyote.”


Offline Kerry

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The most effective counter I have seen to this was a male Australian TV personality went up to one of the senior Phelpses who was protesting a funeral for someone who was gay and began to flirt with him and make sexual compliments and the man panicked and ran away.  THAT is probably one of the most effective counter-demonstrations - they could have a gay kiss-in counterdemonstration and all the Phelpses would get sick and flee.


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Offline Clyde-B

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It's not legal to sit around and plan someone's murder, that is not free speech.

It's not legal to sit around and plan the illegal destruction of property, that is not free speech.

Is it legal to advocate and incite both of these acts?  The question is where do you draw the line?

If I were the Westboro Baptists, I would be careful about claiming that "God loves IED's."   Someone might just decide to send them one.

Offline Lynne

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I don't like it personally, but I think legally their right to free speech has to be protected if we're going to be the free society our founding fathers envisioned.

That said, I think communities should pass ordinances or do whatever they have to do to keep them a far distance from mourners - their rights end where the rights of others begin.  And certainly a family has a right to bury their loved one(s) in peace.

Like someone else said, I think that their hate speech will lead to their own destruction.  They've become a joke because of their own ridiculous claims.
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