It's Ugly, But It's Legal
March 2, 2011 9:27 AM Subscribe
posted by EmpressCallipygos (181 comments total)
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The Supreme Court has ruled 8-1 in favor of categorizing Westboro Baptist Church's funeral protests as protected speech under the First Amendment.
In the ruling,
Chief Justice John G. Roberts writes: "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. But 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."
Chief Justice Alito was the only dissent: "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case."
The crux of the Court's decision seems to have hinged on whether WBC's speech was "private" -- as in, whether they were targeting specific individuals directly -- or "public." Since their "military funeral" protests do not name any specific person, a specific person cannot sue for damages.
In his brief, Chief Justice Roberts does state that "even protected speech is not equally permissible in all times and all places", and affirms that a community's effort to restrict the WBC -- confining them to a specific location, or preventing them from demonstrating a half hour before or after a funeral -- is indeed Constitutional.