The Supreme Court just handed down its decision in the Westboro Baptist Church case, Snyder v. Phelps. The court ruled, 8-1, that the father of a slain Marine could not successfully sue the Westboro church in tort for protesting during his son’s funeral.
Call it Free Speech 101. The hard part about the First Amendment is that you have to allow people to say all manner of annoying, vulgar, and inappropriate things, at the wrong times.
Not that Justice Samuel Alito thinks so. Justice Alito was the lone dissenter in this case. He was also the lone dissenter in the Stevens case, in which the Court overturned a ban on animal crush videos on First Amendment grounds. But he voted with the majority in Citizens United.
I can’t wait until Sam “Not True” Alito writes a book or something explaining why regular people don’t deserve the free speech given to American corporations and sitting Supreme Court justices….
For the majority, this case was a slam dunk. From the Wall Street Journal:
“As a nation we have chosen… to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. “That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case.”
Most reasonable people agree that these Westboro people are distasteful nutjobs. But what can you do? This is America, and everybody has a right to make an ass of themselves.
We can’t take away the right of people to act a fool — isn’t that right, Justice Alito?
Click on the links below for more coverage.
Westboro Baptist Church Wins Supreme Court Appeal Over Funeral Protests [Associated Press via Huffington Post]
High Court Rules in Favor of Funeral Protesters [Wall Street Journal]
Live Blog: Opinions | 3.2.11 [SCOTUSblog]
Supreme Court Rules First Amendment Protects Westboro’s Funeral Protesters from Tort Suits [ABA Journal]