Supreme Court funeral-protest case: Your opinion needed

By NW Spotlight,

Is this not the most provocative free speech test case in the nation? The infamous protest group of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church staged a protest at a funeral for a dead American soldier with signs reading “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”, “You’re Going to Hell” and “God Hates the USA.” and so forth. It is important to note that the protesters did follow the law which required them to be 1000 feet away from the site. At stake is the penalty in which ithe lower courts have ordered the protesters to pay a $5 million penalty for intentional infliction of emotional distress and other claims. Forty-eight states and veterans groups have sided with the family, while the Associated Press, worried about Free Speech issues, has sided with the protesters. The video below gives statements from both sides.

How would you rule if you were the Supreme Court?

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 16 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Steve Plunk

    They are sick and twisted people but the US constitution is clear regarding freedom of speech. Restrictions can and should be applied to protect the privacy and dignity of funeral services and perhaps those need to be increased but this group apparently stayed outside the 1000 foot boundary so the judgment should be overturned.

    I hope the members of this church can find peace with God in another way.

    • rural resident

      So Steve, if one of your employees (during his non-working time) stood outside your office and yelled, continuously, “Steve Plunk is an idiot,” you would not take any action against him? After all, if you did, his free speech rights would be violated, wouldn’t they?

      • Steve Plunk

        rural resident, Your lack of understanding regarding constitutional free speech rights is disappointing. As a private citizen I have no obligation to endure insults from an employee at any time. The government can not pass laws abridging the right to free speech according to the constitution so their hands are tied but I retain rights as a private citizen. You do understand the bill of rights was put there to protect citizens against the government rather than put restrictions on the citizens?

        • rural resident

          My point was that there is no such thing as absolute free speech. There’s no rational political comment being made by Fred Phelps and his gang of idiots. And, despite the “church” connection, there certainly isn’t anything religious about it.

          The purpose of the Constitutional language is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to express his or her viewpoint on political, economic, and social concerns. There’s nothing in that language that guarantees people the right to inflict themselves upon others’ private lives.

          However, I’m sure the conservatives on the Supreme Court will foul this up, just as they did the Citizens United case.

          • Steve Plunk

            You’re digging yourself deeper.

            Phelps and his church obeyed the restrictions put in place so they should be given some protection against civil suits. The protests were not aimed at this soldier in particular but at the United States as a whole. We really have to be careful when we start trying to judge what is and isn’t political speech or what is protected speech (think exotic dancing).

            You can continue to try and make conservatives look bad but it just ain’t working. Citizens United was clearly the best decision for our civil liberties.

          • rural resident

            Actually, I don’t have to dig. About eight decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that “free speech” is not an absolute right. Look it up.

            As for making conservatives look bad, I don’t have to work very hard. Just look at the situation in Tennessee. Conservatives do a fine job of making themselves look bad.

  • Anonymous

    Despicable as those freaks are, they have First Amendment rights the same as the rest of us, and unless they’re actually inciting violence they have a right to carry their obnoxious signs. As Oliver Wendell Holmes (I think) said, freedom of speech means freedom for the speech we hate as well as the speech we like.

  • Dan Estes

    The only thing more reprehensible than celebrating the death of soldiers as some twisted perversion of faith…

    …would be to subvert the Constitution to ban or otherwise punish speech we find offensive.

  • valley p

    So you guys are all ok with flag burning also?

    • Columbia County Kid

      Absolutely. In fact, I find the speech engaged in by this church to be far more reprehensible than flag burning, which in many cases is a form of true political protest. But as obnoxious as both acts are, they are both protected forms of speech. However, I am not sure that a person engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment is immune from civil liability for the effect that their speech has on others. That is an interesting question, which may be at the heart of this case.

    • Steve Plunk

      Flag burning is protected free speech.

      Why are the liberal trolls trying to bait the conservatives when this is common ground? I guess they never miss an opportunity to be partisan. Citizenship at it’s finest.

      • valley p

        Tolls? Bait? Nope. As I recall, for years conservatives were clamoring for a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning just about every election season. George H W made a real point of this and wagged a finger at Dukakis as a “card carrying member of the ACLU” when they were defending flag burning as free speech.

        I say welcome to the civil liberties boat Steve.

        • Steve Plunk

          Control your arrogance. I’ve been on that boat for longer than you would care to know. Your combative attitude on what should be an agreeable subject is what exposes you as a troll and as baiting people for a fight. While many conservatives were for a flag burning amendment many were against it. Regardless if it was a constitutional amendment it would then become the law and remain constitutional. Do you get that difference? Conservatives work within the rules to change laws they disagree with while liberals stomp their feet and cry.

          BTW, I believe Dukakis was a card carrying member of the ACLU.

          • valley p

            “Conservatives work within the rules to change laws they disagree with while liberals stomp their feet and cry.”

            You could have fooled me this past tea party year. I’ve never seen so much stomping and crying and angst expressed by adults. I’ve heard “2nd amendment remedies” suggested by your senate candidates, about half of conservatives don’t think Obama is actually president because he is a Kenyan born socialist, and on and on. I’ve seen other of your senate candidates saying unemployment insurance and SSi are unconstitutional. I mean, where does it end?

  • Steve Plunk

    That young man in the video died while wearing a uniform of those who protect our rights including freedom of speech. God bless him and his father.

  • Doggy



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