LIONEL AUDIO: The Protected Speech of Vile Hate

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday, October 6th, in the case of Snyder v. Phelps. A video of Pastor Phelps may help explain him better than anything I could write. As you know, Phelps is the fire-breathing Kentucky pastor of Westboro Baptist Church. (Check out its URL.) A jury awarded $10.9 million (later reduced to $5 million) for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress to Albert Snyder, the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder who was killed in Iraq. It seems that the pastor interrupted the military funeral of the fallen Marine when he and his cacophonous comrades jeered the attendees claiming that Matthew’s death was the result of God’s displeasure with American tolerance toward gays. Or something. On appeal the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed the verdict claiming that it was protected speech under the First Amendment.

The issues addressed before SCOTUS are most artfully enumerated infra.

(1) Whether the prohibition of awarding damages to public figures to compensate for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, under the Supreme Court’s First Amendment precedents, applies to a case involving two private persons regarding a private matter; (2) whether the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment trumps its freedom of religion and peaceful assembly; and (3) whether an individual attending a family member’s funeral constitutes a “captive audience” who is entitled to state protection from unwanted communication. [Source]

First Amendment issues on the Court’s docket also include Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, which seeks to answer the musical question whether a California law banning the sale of violent video games to children is violative of the the constitutional numero uno.

Herein lie and are my review and perspective. Con Law 101’s in session.

  1. This shouldn’t be protected free speech any more than yelling “FIRE” in a crowded, unignighted theatre. This is not just invasion of privacy, it is harassment and by any reasonable community standard, obscene. If you protect the free speech of protesters at funerals, what’s next, Nazis crashing Black & Jewish weddings with your blessing? Anyone with half a brain & a law degree can legislate against this kind of political excrement without doing any harm to freedom of anything.

    – Dale Gladstone, NY

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