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Blinding Lady Justice PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

lady-justiceI've written about the Westboro Baptist Church before, though I didn't mention their name. I'd rather not in this case either, but I have to as they're prominently featured in the news today, including this article from the New York Daily News.

Albert Snyder's son was a U.S. marine killed in the line of duty while serving in Iraq. At his funeral, the Westboro Baptist Church appeared waving signs thanking God for "dead marines," among other well-known hate speech. Albert Snyder sued for emotional distress, and initially won a multi-million dollar award from a jury in a Maryland court. The church appealed, and won, nullifying the award to Snyder. The kicker: the court granted the church's request for reimbursement of legal costs, and Albert Snyder now owes them about $16,000.

In short, a man's son dies for his country, a hate group protests at the funeral (claiming that the son is now in Hell, among other things), and now Albert Snyder has to pay them $16,000. It hardly seems fair.

I first learned about this from skeptics via an Internet chat room, and the reaction was along the lines of "Damn, that sucks. I hate those guys." An Internet poll had 92% of participants claiming that the court made a mistake in this case.

And while I certainly agree that the church's actions and very existence are an affront to humanity, I'm glad they were granted their legal costs by the court.

Yep, that's right... I'm supporting the court. They did the right thing.

It's simple: a suit was filed, and the appeals court ruled that the church's first amendment rights protected them from the suit, so they deserve to have their court costs reimbursed by the plaintiffs. The system worked, as it should. Say what you want about the church, but they know what they're doing. They know the law, and they follow it, and despite my personal feelings, I'm glad the courts realized this. Judge Robert B. King wrote:

As utterly distasteful as these signs are they involve matters of public concern, including the issues of homosexuals in the military, the sex-abuse scandal within the Catholic Church, and the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens.

The three judge panel split the vote 2:1.

I only wish the that the courts had been as fair to the JREF. We have been sued many times over the years, never successfully, but we've had to pay court costs each time. Though we've asked to be compensated for our legal costs in the face of some obviously fraudulent suits (we were sued by "God," for example), we've never received a cent. The situation as it is right now is that anyone willing to pony up enough money can sue a non-profit group such as the JREF, and force them to pay legal costs... even if they don't have a legal leg to stand on. This is a state issue, and though the circumstances are different from Snyder's, the JREF is being penalized for using its right to free speech by what appears to me to be an oversight in the legal statutes.

So what do we do when groups we loathe are protected by the same rights we want to be protected by? We celebrate it. There is a reason Lady Justice is wearing a blindfold. If your battle is with Westboro, do your fighting in other ways than by wishing the courts would be prejudicial towards them. Protest yourself, or write articles, or... my favorite solution: ignore them completely. Whatever you choose, hopefully you'll follow the law and receive the same protections they did.

All that said, my heart goes out to Albert Snyder and his family. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, and if they overturn the decision of the Court of Appeals, Snyder won't have to pay. But just in case, a fund has been started to help make the payment should that be the final outcome. If you're interested, you can donate at matthewsnyder.org.

Freedom of speech is an essential tool for skeptics, and the only way we can have it is if it's universal. We shouldn't want it any other way.

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written by carnegis, March 31, 2010
I agree. If we want free speech for ourselves then we need to allow it for other people, even if we disagree with what they are saying.
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Well...
written by PlasticRectangle, March 31, 2010
Bill O'Reilly, of all people, wrote a check covering the full cost, so the soldier's family isn't going to pay after all. They'll need everything they can anyway for the fight ahead:

http://www.newsmax.com/InsideCover/oreilly-marine-funeral-protesters/2010/03/30/id/354287

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Free Speech is Important
written by mlanger, March 31, 2010
As distasteful as the church group's actions were, we do need to protect free speech. Where the judge crossed the line, however, is granting them legal costs -- especially if, as this post reports, JREF has never gotten legal costs reimbursed. Surely there should be some standard, some rule?

I think the judge should have let them win their freedom of speech case but fined them the amount of the court costs for disturbing the peace -- which is what they should have been charged with in the first place.

As for Bill O'Reilly, as much as I dislike the man and his politics, I have gained a bit of respect for him for stepping forward to do the right thing.
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Christians appalled
written by laursaurus, March 31, 2010
Bill O'Reilly is like many Christians who are deeply troubled by the hateful venom from these jerks. Jesus called us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Pharisees were appalled that Jesus associated with tax collectors, non-Jews, lepers, etc. The way he treated women, was unprecedented. I don't know what he'd think about gay marriage, but he would undoubtedly rebuke those who denounced and shunned homosexuals. Just like the crowd who was about to stone the adultress, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." If God hates anything, it's the pain and shame these people cause.
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The court was right.
written by Smiledriver, March 31, 2010
I would like to think that if someone sued me for exercising my 1st ammendment rights, especially if there was no way they could win and I had to defend myself, the court would award me my costs.

That said I hope these people get a nasty rash on their nethers.

Oh and Bravo Mr. O'Rielly, well done.
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written by JeffWagg, March 31, 2010
One thing I didn't mention is that fact that this group existence also brings together disparate forces. I think the comments here are the first ones I've seen that mention Bill O'Reilly in a positive light. smilies/smiley.gif
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Remember Voltaire !
written by tpeissig, March 31, 2010
As a gay man, I can, more than most, relate to the feelings of anger and disappointment when listening to the disgusting, homophobic and horrendous things that the Westboro Baptist Church preaches. I find them utterly and morally repugnant. I have been following their antics very closely for many years. However, I have to say that they certainly have the RIGHT to preach openly what they want, when they want, if I'm going to continue to believe in democracy. I try to live by the words of the great Voltaire who said, "I may not believe in what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." If we stop the free speech of Fred Phelps and his family then where does the censorship end. Will it be gay people who are muffled next time they try to fight for their rights, or atheists who are told they have no forum to disagree with organized religion? We need to make sure that everybody is free to keep their right to free speech and to keep our country as FREE as it can be for all its' citizens.
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Get Back at Them
written by GusGus, March 31, 2010

We should attend the church's funerals with the most vile and disgusting signs and comments on a bullhorn that we can think of. See how they like it!!!
.
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I'm missing something here
written by Kajabla61, March 31, 2010
I always thought a funeral was a private affair. How is that subject to free speech protesters?
Is it simply because churches and cemeteries are considered open to the public?

If a group of nonreligious people stood outside a church during services and shouted out protests I am willing to bet that things would turn out differently.
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Private affair/public land
written by Tressa, March 31, 2010
It has always been my understanding that funerals, although held on rented public land (funeral home, cemetary, rented meaning privately paid for), are private functions. Is this not a case of "your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose"?
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People like this make it hard to set the needed example...
written by MichaelDescado, March 31, 2010
Though a part of me is appalled by the brazen, sociopathic disregard for the feelings of others this radical church group hid behind, I have to agree with the rationale of this article. If justice is truly blind, and thus, (in the United States), free speech is a universal right, then I cannot logically condemn the decision. True freedom is championing the “right” of someone to say even what you yourself may have devoted your entire life to debunking.

And by that measure, ALL must be afforded the same constitutional accommodations.

That being said, if it was one of MY loved ones who had died in combat service to his/her country, (whether I agree with the war itself or not), and a group of ignorant, superstitious, self-righteous, hate spewing morons had desecrated the funeral, I’ll tell you right now that the repercussions they would have to fear would in no way involve legality.
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written by Steel Rat, March 31, 2010
If the Supreme Court overturns the appeal, doesn't that mean Snyder gets his original settlement?
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written by gmartincv, March 31, 2010
With the Supreme Court taking this up, it seems to me that they will be essentially be revisiting the 1919 decision in "Schenck v United States". This is the case where Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing the unanimous opinion, used two phrases that we often hear today. One is "A clear and present danger" --- much weaken in subsequent decisions --- and the more well known "Shouting fire in a crowded theater".

This was a decision which said that in some instances there could be a limit to "Freedom of Speech".

George
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Even a scoundrel can be legally right...
written by Human Person Jr, March 31, 2010
just not morally right.

The law, in the form of a three-judge panel, did the right thing.

I have certain language that I used to describe the cretinous members of that "church." I won't use it here.

Still, the decision was justice, on both counts, as painful as it might be.
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written by Kitty, March 31, 2010
yeah it's really awful. Because no matter what, the uglier the more the church loves it. Burning in hell? I think as a xian I know what group will be there... its like how clueless can a "church" (sorry I gag reflex when I even type that) be?
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written by MadScientist, March 31, 2010
I disagree; the family and friends of the soldier were the target of this hatred masquerading as "free speech". These judges should not protect such vile people by pretending that this is "free speech" intended for something else and not what these people actually intended it for. Phelps did have a career as a lawyer in the past and he seems to know how to work the system; it's such a pity he turns his talents to such nonsense as his god.
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So much for omnipotence
written by Zoroaster, March 31, 2010
I want to hear more about how the JREF defeated God in court. I think that would make a great article. The almighty judge seeks earthly retribution - and loses.
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Westbro Lies
written by likelystory, March 31, 2010
Shirely Phelps-Roper is a Lawyer...... Shirely screams against the American government for disobeying God's Scriptural Laws,yet the First Amendmant is not a Scriptural Law,nor can it be.
Shirely uses ''man's laws'' to to spit her venom hoping she can enforce God's Laws... That's two opposites. God HATES man's laws, and HATES Shirely Phelps-Roper for trying to convert people with the very thing that she claims she is opposing, Worldly Laws''.

Shirely Phelps-Roper is ungodly and unlearned in the application of God's Laws. Shirely Phelps-Roper is a mixed up cranky ungodly hypocrite.
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written by quizmasterchris, March 31, 2010
Of course O'Reilly is Catholic, and can use whatever good press he can get, so I imagine that him spending what for most people reading this is the equivalent of lunch money on a "he's not such a bad guy" project is a no-brainer.

Does this mean we'll see O'Reilly's show committed to fostering acceptance and diversity from here on in? I'm guessng not.

If one takes the more positive portions of the bible literally, a soldier would be going to Hell I imagine. Not for the gay issue, for the "using murder as a political tool" issue.
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written by Phatchick96, March 31, 2010
Shirely Phelps-Roper has my pity more than anything. She was fed that sociopathic garbage from the time she was a baby (along with the rest of his kids and grandkids) . When that's all your taught, that's all you know and it takes a very strong person to stand against the only truth you've known all your life. Fred is another matter altogether. He is (may god forgive me for saying it) on of the very few people who I will actually rejoice when I get news of his death. IMNSHO, he's the moral equivalent of a pile of dog poo on the sidewalk and just about as relevant.
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The US gets it right, the UK gets it wrong
written by ianmacm, March 31, 2010
It is worth contrasting this case with the recent case in the UK of Shawn Holes. ( http://ponyurl.com/vxttyv ) Holes is another anti-homosexual loudmouth, but he was fined over an incident in Glasgow in which he said that homosexuals were going to Hell. Did he break the law by doing this? No, according to Peter Tatchell, the UK's leading gay rights campaigner. This was a victory for the "diversity" lobby, but freedom of speech has to include the right to say things considered unpopular or offensive, or it becomes meaningless. smilies/cry.gif
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written by Fallon, April 01, 2010
Free speech is of course the key to a transparent democracy, so naturally I support Westboro's right to free speech like many others here.

If nothing else, it at least means that the appalling bile that Fred Phelps and his kin spew will always be open to enquiry and interrogation from rational people. The world could get very horrible if the hate groups were forced underground and into more secretive modes of dissemination.
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written by Andrew Wiggin, April 01, 2010
I wonder if a good way to keep protesters away from funerals would be to write a contract for the perfomance of the ceremony, the digging of the grave, and such to make it clear that whoever was paying for the funeral was renting the entire facility for the duration of the event. Anyone who was not specifically invited to the event would be a tresspasser, and subject to arrest. This is something that has come up on occasion with a reenactment group I participate in. Lots of reenactment groups have a reputation for throwing events that devolve into pretty wild parties, so we do get the occasional party crasher, heckler, sexual predator, or mean drunk trying to sneak in. The authority to have the police remove such folks if they are being disruptive is based on our renting the space.

Andrew
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written by deavman, April 01, 2010
Freedom of speech, always. But there is a fine line where you must know that you are getting into provocation territory. So, I would have seen a modicum of violence as somewhat acceptable. This would have been later judicially declared as momentary insanity, and those church morons would have thought twice before trying the same shit again. Peace.
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written by Otara, April 01, 2010
You cant say whatever you like at the middle of the night though outside someones house can you?

To me there is a distinction between freedom of speech and freedom to say it whenever wherever, regardless. We dont live in an age where the options to communicate are limitted like the days of old where a soapbox may have been your only option. In my view there is room for some limits to be placed around issues like the above without freedom of speech really being at risk as such.



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written by calipsomn, April 01, 2010
Isn't there a law against hate speech, which should be above the freedom of speech?
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If we want our own rights respected then we need to respect those same rights for other people
written by A.Mercer, April 01, 2010
I do not agree with what these people say. However, I agree with their right to say it. If we take away their right to practice freedom of speech then what right do we have to keep our own freedom of speech.
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written by Fallon, April 01, 2010
Otara,

Well see, a very deliberate part of Westboro's 'strategy' (actually I'm not sure if it counts as a strategy being that they lack an calculable objective, but they are certainly very deliberate and calculating in delivering their 'message') is to exploit the US Constitution for all it's worth. I believe that they also use and cite in court the human rights protections afforded to them by various human rights conventions. The truth is, there's really only limited practical action that can be taken against them that wouldn't also threaten the rights of more decent folk.

One example off the top of my head is that a certain municipality - I can't remember which - passed a local law preventing any sort of protest, peaceful or otherwise, from taking place within a certain distance of churches or cemeteries, specifically in response to Fred's family's posturing at funerals.

Other limited prosecutions that have been attempted include things like the aforementioned hate speech, which is only successful - and which only overrides free speech - when it can be demonstrated that the speech in question can reasonably be expected to cause harm or prejudicial action (the key word being 'action' there - proclaiming that God Hates Fags isn't illegal until somebody reads that sign and decides it gives them the right to punch homosexual people, for example). I believe others have attempted to prosecute them on the grounds of obscenity and creating a public disturbance, but the former depends on how harshly a given community treats the word 'fag', and the latter depends on the Church members' specific conduct at a given funeral. I even read somewhere once that one gentlemen intended to try for some sort of indecency law being that they usually have children at their protests, being encouraged to talk about 'fags' and homosexuals in a way that they can't possibly understand. I have no idea if he ever went ahead with it, however.

The thing is, I truly feel that the solution to people like Westboro (one day, someone will write a musical entitled "How Do We Solve A Problem Like Fred Phelps?") is to formally undermine them, rather than alter the laws to make life difficult for them. Even ignoring the ethical concerns of changing the laws to make the prosecution of these people easier (that would be persecution), the truth is that we need to engender a culture that has no room for them. It might be ironic that I invoke a comparison to a religious practice here, but these people really need to be shunned, in the classic Amish sense of the word, if they don't wish to be helped to change.

And I think that this is generally the approach that local governments etc. have taken. It's much easier to communicate in no uncertain terms that any protesters who trespass on particular properties will be arrested, regardless of whether they heed those warnings or not, than it is to pass a law that outright disallows the (somewhat macabre) practice of funeral picketing.

Furthermore, in such a situation, the primary concern should be the protection of the bereaved and vulnerable that find themselves at the funeral. It seems that taking greater actions against the church for these infractions could conceivably interfere with the grieving process of the families. It hardly seems worth that, considering the church's tiny size, and the preparedness of most people to offer sympathy and support to people who grieve.

That's my theory anyway: teach all your kids and friends that Fred and Shirley are monsters. Teach them to teach their friends the same thing. Fred's a dinosaur, and Shirley's not much longer for this world than he is. The next generation of Phelps are, as is always the case, much more in tune with modern expectations than their parents are. I really don't expect that the Westboro Baptists will be around for much longer. The homosexuals are here to stay, and bloody welcome they are too.

Goodnight smilies/smiley.gif
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written by TDjazz, April 01, 2010
I will defend the Westboro wackos right to free speech, but that they do it at a soldier's funeral is morally indefensible.
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And...
written by TDjazz, April 01, 2010
The Westboro wackos were recently in Richmond, VA, exercising their right to free speech outside a school and the Virginia Holocaust Museum--and I exercised my right to ignore them.
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written by peterwbarber, April 01, 2010
The Westboro Baptist Church has a right of free speech and so do I. They are despicable.
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This is one thing we can do
written by ManoloMatos, April 01, 2010
The members of the Church of the Fling Spaghetti Monster has a great idea to counter protest the Westboro Baptist Church. They did it last week. It not just only was completely legal, but also effective and really funny. Check it out: http://www.venganza.org/2010/0...-protest/.
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One more thing...
written by TDjazz, April 01, 2010
The Westboro Wackos have a right to free speech, but they don't have a right to media attention. The power of the Wackos to stir up controversy will be effectively undermined when the TV cameras are turned off and no media cover their ridiculous demonstrations.
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written by William, April 01, 2010
My problem is that the "church" has admitted they will use the money to hold more protests. This tells me they didn't need reimbursement for court costs. By donating to the Matthew Snyder fund, I end up supporting that vile action. One cannot win.

When one of the members of the WBC is at a funeral, others should protest with slanderous signs as well. See if they sue.
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The real intent of Westboro baptist is to cause pain...
written by Griz, April 01, 2010
...because they know the media will suck this all up and give them a national forum for their bullshit. Like someone else said, using man's laws for their own gain ignoring what their scriptures teach.

At some point in this process, vigilantism becomes justified. All you have to do to shut these people up is to hit them in a way that hurts but they can't turn into publicity. Unfortunately, that's not going to be a legal avenue, they're too smart to leave themselves vulnerable on that account.
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written by I Ratant, April 01, 2010
These insane can practice their "freedom of speech" as they do, but make the venue they must be at many miles from the event they are protesting.
The distance should dilute any influence they would have on the event itself, and point them out as a group of loonies yelling from a vacant field disconnected from anything.
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written by Varlo1930, April 01, 2010
I normally agree with Jeff's positions, but he is woefully wrong on this one. It is well established in the law that some speech (or "speech" if you prefer) is so inherently nauseating, dangerous, or seditious that the constitutional protections of free speech do not apply. While the best known is Holmes proscription about crying fire in a crowded theater, there are many others.

Despite lifetime tenure it has been said that the supreme court reads the election returns. One can only hope that it yields to public sentiment on this issue and and reverses a clearly wrong decision.
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written by DWhite, April 01, 2010
I would like to know if this was a private cemetery. If so the protesters could have been asked to leave by the management and charged with trespass if they did not. Remember that the first amendment only protects us against the government restricting speech. It does not give unlimited license.
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Hooray!
written by Skeptigirl, April 01, 2010
I just saw this on Yahoo News and came running to comment. This was such an important case giving science a victory to challenge and publish evidence against any woo claim, but especially established institutional woo.
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errata
written by Skeptigirl, April 01, 2010
That was meant to say "institutionalized" woo, meaning long standing widespread false belief.

Also, I was referring to Sing's case, not the Phelps case where the outcome for the moment sucks.
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Hasty Mistake
written by Skeptigirl, April 01, 2010
OM, FSM. I was sure I was posting this in the Simon Sing thread. I have no clue how I ended up here.

Sheesh!
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The Phelps are not trampling on provate property when they protest...
written by LovleAnjel, April 01, 2010
In most cases, the protests are not in the cemetery or next to the grave, but right outside the entrance. They will shout to be heard at the service.

The Hell's Angels have often busted up or prevented Phelps protests at solders' funerals.
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written by MadScientist, April 01, 2010
@tpeissig: But by your measure, and that of the majority judges, we should all be able to go to work with signs that read "NIGGERS AND SPICS GO HOME!" and that would be "free speech". It is not, it is harassment. If you took those same signs to a random public audience on the other hand then you might consider it a matter of free speech, but even then the law must weigh the public good against the rights of any individual. If you were a victim of the WBC and simply told yourself "that's OK, they have a right to free speech" then you're an idiot.
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I Believe You're Wrong...
written by Alencon, April 01, 2010
Yes Free Speech is important and we should insure that we protect the right of people to express different VIEWPOINTS. But this isn't a question of Viewpoint but of Content and Context. The issue wasn't WHAT they were saying it was WHERE and WHY they were saying it.

Free Speech is not unrestricted. You can yell FIRE on the beach where everyone can plainly see there is no fire but you can't yell it in a dark and crowded theater. You may believe that spewing four letter words is your right but you can be restricted from doing so at a little league baseball game. You may want to give a speech analyzing the next NFL season but you may not be allowed to do so at a government symposeum on nuclear energy.

All of these situations are restriction of free speech due to the inappropriateness of the speech either due to content or context. This Westboro Baptist Church case is a case of inappropriateness of the context. Rail against gays all you want; claim a soldier's death is a judgment from God but not within sight or hearing of the grieving family.

There are limits. You cannot say anything you want, anywhere and at any time.

Now let's talk about WHY. The actions of the WBC weren't an act of free speech but a psychological assault on the soldier's family and that assault was clearly intended to cause pain and suffering. I reject the notion that such an assault is protected speech.
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written by William, April 02, 2010
@Alencon

...which is EXACTLY why the appeal decision was WRONG.
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Jeff - You Forget One Thing.......
written by GayIthacan, April 02, 2010
the crux of the case was NOT First Amendment rights (which do not apply on private property) - but whether the defendants were violating both property rights AND incitement statutes by their demonstration.

A jury determined that they were.

The primary issue was NOT First Amendment rights - which would have been the determining factor had the issues of location and incitement not also been raised and litigated.

The lawsuit was perfectly valid and in no way frivolous. And the defendants should have borne their own court costs.

Gotta disagree with ya on this one.
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written by MadScientist, April 02, 2010
@Alencon: It's also stalking and harassment and is inappropriate for the general public. People often forget that public figures (especially politicians) are expected to put up with much more. When people make plans to harass some group and gather information on when/where they will be and plan to stay a certain distance so that they can claim they weren't trespassing - that's an obvious and deliberate attempt to make a feeble claim at "freedom of speech". It's disappointing that some people fall for such pretenses and hail this decision by an appeals court as justice when in fact it is a miscarriage of justice.
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Sorry but..
written by theunmaskedmagician, April 02, 2010
I disagree. What about Mr. Snyder's right to morn the death of his son in peace?? What the church did was harassment. The church had no right to hold those sings with what was written on them.

Sorry but I disagree with you on this one
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Came to the same thought--harassment
written by TDjazz, April 03, 2010
I have been thinking about this situation for the past day or two. Then I read that the Westboro Wackos are going to stage other protests (they have a schedule), including Virginia Tech, "proclaiming the murder of Morgan Harrington was part of a curse from God" (examiner.com). I'm not a lawyer, but in my opinion what the Westboro Wackos do is harassment (which other posters on this page have also come to conclude), which is unlawful: "Under the United States Code Title 18 Subsection 1514(c)1. Harassment is defined as 'a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such a person and serves no legitimate purpose.'" (uslawbooks.com) Now I know I might receive flak for being an "armchair lawyer," but the WW's are targeting specific people and organizations for their vitriolic protests, and harassment isn't protected as free speech.

I'm going to disagree with Jeff and other posters on this page on this one. The Westboro Wackos have a right to assemble and spew their hatred under the protection of free speech, yes, but they cross the line to unlawful harassment when they stage these protests targeting specific people, such as the father burying his soldier son.
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this lawyer agrees with Jeff
written by PhillyBill, April 03, 2010
I'm not a "First Amendment" lawyer, which is what the attorneys who specialize in defending libel cases call themselves. Couple key things: the protest, from the pix I've seen, was on the public sidewalk near the church, so there's no private property issues.

Yes, the courts have approved "reasonable" restrictions on the time, manner and place of speech (even though there's nothing in the text of the First A that suggests such an exception). But where that line falls depends on several factors. There's going to be higher tolerance where issues of public interest are at stake. But most important, those manner type restrictions should be content-neutral. When we say that these vile, twisted, deluded protestors forfeit their right to free speech becaues their message is so wrong in our view, we start down a slippery slope. Yes, that's an easy argument to make, but judging the right to speech based on whether we agree with it, or the emotional impact it may have, would cause regret when they come for us.
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Too bad you're not a real lawyer!
written by laursaurus, April 03, 2010
@TJDazz,
because your argument is spot on (as our friends in the UK would say)!
You've made an excellent point about creating substantial emotional distress considering how horribly cruel it is to demonstrate at a funeral. These people are not Christians! They are a disgrace to humanity, if you can even consider them human.
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Tort reform
written by shawntr, April 03, 2010
Jeff-- You mention the JREF gets taken to court. Randi mentions that in this video I watched tonight. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMtuWymUzz4
I know conservatives talk a lot about tort reform. Can you give your experience with frivolous torts and shed some light on whether tort reform is a good idea?
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written by JeffWagg, April 04, 2010
@shawntr

Tough issue, and one I'm not qualified to speak to. It seems to me though, that if you're acting within your rights, you shouldn't have to pay anything if someone sues you unsuccessfully.
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You have got to be kidding me.
written by landfaller, April 04, 2010
I've been reading this blog (and SWIFT) for years, and am in agreeance with nearly everything you've ever had to say. This is the first time I've felt the need to comment.

Jeff, I recognize your right to an opinion, but your opinion about Albert Snyder having to pay the court costs disgusts me almost as much as the Westboro Church's actions. I'd like to say that their actions are unchristian, by the way, but in my experience, they're extreme Christian -- entirely typical of the entire intolerant hateful religion, especially Basptists. I was born Baptist, so I know what I'm talking about. And yes, I am paiting a whole religious denomination with one big brush.

The Westboro Church leaders and members were vile for protesting this way in the first place. A man gives his life for his country, and this is the thanks he gets? If they can protest, dammit, Mr. Snyder can sue them. It was a very clear case of harassment, and worse, it was entirely unjustified.

And yes, the fact that the judge overturned the judgment against them is legal, and just fine. But the fact that they assessed him court costs is bloody ridiculous, as slap in the face of all that is right and good. Reverse the case, fine. Let the idiots get away with a slap on the wrists, fine. But what the court has done here is offensive, absolutely typical of the way that religion in this country has been allowed to pervert justice in America ever since the beginning, despite the so-called "separation of church and state".

I don't care if it's legal. In the Jim Crow era, it was legal to treat African Americans as subhuman. That didn't make this right, it doesn't make this right, and it doesn't make you or all your cheerleaders right. I've lost all respect for you, Mr. Wagg, and I'm very surprised it's become necessary to say that about anyone involved with such a fine organization as the JREF. Shame on you.

Sheesh. I can't believe it, but you and the American courts have made me believe in Bill O'Reilly about something. I but I feel less soiled in agreeing with him than I would in agreeing with you. This is a bloody travesty, and as difficult as it is for me to say it, I have to applaud Mr. O'Reilly in paying off the court costs. I'll be sending in my own contribution. As for contributing to the JREF, which I was considering, you've soured me on that for a l ong while. I hope I'm not the only one.

I've said what I wanted to say, and will not be back.
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written by GeekGoddess, April 04, 2010
@landfaller

As for contributing to the JREF, which I was considering, you've soured me on that for a l ong while. I hope I'm not the only one.


Really. You've been reading SWIFT for YEARS, and you're considering donating to JREF? How generous of you to consider that option for YEARS.

And yet, you let one opinion piece by one person 'sour you for a long time'.

Treat all your friends like that?
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GeekGoddess, you are absolutely correct.
written by landfaller, April 04, 2010
I have to admit that comment was out of line and unfair, and for that I apologize. I'm afraid that I've been known to be inconsistent, which is obvious, given the fact that I am replying to this after all.

The truth is, I'm not a big contributor to anything...and it usually takes me a while to work my way up to it.

My contribution is on its way via Paypal, as soon as I write this. Ditto for Mr. Snyder.

But I still disagree vehemently with Jeff. And I'm no less outraged by Westboro's repugnant actions.

landfaller
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written by GeekGoddess, April 04, 2010
@landfaller

AWESOME.

It's easier to improve and change things when you're part of it. And it's ok, no, it's GOOD, to disagree.

And Westboro should burn in hell. If there was a hell.

smilies/smiley.gif
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written by Vic333, April 04, 2010
I also believe the WBC's actions constitute harassment, not free speech. Carrying their signs and shouting hate speech on any given day on any given street would be an exercise in free speech. Picking a specific soldier's (any anyone else's) funeral with signs specific to them being a "dead marine" is harassment and I don't see how in the world the court could not see that.
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