Skip to comments.Anti-gay minister shouldn't be able to intrude on soldiers'
Posted on 10/06/2010 11:29:16 AM PDT by Kaslin
Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Snyder v. Phelps, a case about the nature and scope of basic rights -- those of free speech vs. those of privacy. But this case is fundamentally about wrongs and the law's imperfect ability to redress them.
The facts of the case are well known. Matthew Snyder, a Marine lance corporal from Westminster, Md., was killed in the line of duty in Iraq in 2006. The Rev. Fred Phelps and members of his Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church traveled more than 1,000 miles to Maryland to picket his funeral and draw attention to their view that society and the military are too tolerant of homosexuality. They stood at the entrance of the church where the funeral was held, waving signs that said "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates You."
hey followed their protest by publishing a poem on the Internet entitled "The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder," which stated that Matthew's parents "taught Matthew to defy his creator" and "raised him for the devil." The connection between the Phelpses' faith and their political views may be difficult to understand, but it is not difficult to see how this targeted expression of their views would be particularly hurtful to Matthew's father on the occasion of his son's funeral.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
I’m not putting you in the position of defending anyone.
The First Amendment only applies to censorship BY THE GOVERNMENT.
You have no ‘Free Speech’ rights when your speech is against another citizen.
“Suppose hypothetically that Lon Horiuchi got killed and the media was hailing him as a hero. The family of Randy Weaver and the Waco Survivors wanted to demonstrate at his funeral against both Horiuchi personally and the practices of the FBI and ATF.”
You are using a hypothetical that does not exist.
IF the protest was against the Government or any of it’s agencies, then yes, the ‘Free Speech’ protection of the First Amendment applies.
If, however, you are protesting a ‘private citizen’ that has no ties with the government and are deliberately ‘slandering’ them with lies, then no, you don’t have First Amendment protections and there are laws and courts that can and will be used to directly address those issues.
The First Amendment does NOT say ‘The citizens shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’
It says ‘Congress’. In other words the ‘Government’.
The left tries to frame Fred Phelps as a fundemental Christian, but the truth is, this guy ran for Governor of Kansas 3 times...as a DEMOCRAT.
What about at your work? Or on the street? What if I did it on the street, but only spoke to each person once, but did so to everyone in a loud and offensive manner?
What if I stood on the sidewalk on a public street, outside a synagogue and held posters saying Jews should burn? What if I was with several people and we chanted so loud it could be heard over the music of the cantor inside?
Is there no point where the practical application of the first amendment collides with the thoericial ideal?
Wrong. You can speak against another citizen all you want, provided it's not slanderous or libelous. Happens all the time right here on FR.
"You are using a hypothetical that does not exist."
ROTFLMAO...dude...that's the definition of "hypothetical." Did you look that up or figure it out all by yourself?
As I understand it, the Phelps folks are arguing that their protests at soldier funerals are precisely because they were employees/agents of the government (i.e. military); they are claiming the deaths are the results of the government's embrace of homosexuals. That's tantamount to my hypothetical protest/demonstration at a Horiuchi funeral...a private individual who is known for his role as a government employee. I think it would be tasteless, but alas, the First Amendment protects things we may find unsavory.
Again, not to defend Phelps & Co., but what lies have they told about the deceased? "God hates you"? Can you prove otherwise? To my knowledge, based on the photos of their freak show that I've seen, all of their statements/signs have been general enough to avoid any classification as slander/libel against any individual...if they crossed that line, I'm sure somebody would have pursued that line against them by now. Furthermore, to my knowledge, they've been pretty careful about not trespassing on private property, obstructing traffic, obtaining all the locally required permits, etc. You and I may not care one bit for their disgraceful behavior, but it seems to me they are well within their rights to demonstrate as they have.
I would argue that, provided my property was not posted "no trespassing" (and even if it was under some circumstances) you would have the right to do that once...just like a door to door salesman, Jehovahs Witness, somebody soliciting signatures for a petition, or somebody who was lost and asking for directions, etc. After you've been asked to leave once, you're trespassing. To my knowledge the Phelps crew has gone out of their way to secure the correct permits, and avoid trespassing on private property during their little shows.
"What about at your work?
Again, the private property matter comes into play. It's a trespassing issue, not a free speech issue.
Or on the street?
As long as you're not obstructing traffic or creating a disturbance, you have that right. Usually, the "creating a disturbance" charge is preempted by securing a permit, which, to my understanding, the Phelps' have done.
"What if I did it on the street, but only spoke to each person once, but did so to everyone in a loud and offensive manner?"
What if the people entering and exiting an abortion clinic said the protestors there were praying in a loud and offensive manner? Should we strike down their rights as well?
"Is there no point where the practical application of the first amendment collides with the thoericial ideal?"
Well, IMHO, it goes back to public and private virtue and freedom and liberty being coupled with personal responsibility. Certainly, we can always go back to rights being limited when they impose on the rights of others. FWIW, I would love to see the Phelps's hammered with slander and libel suits...to my knowledge they've not yet crossed that line. I would love to see the Phelps's hammered with trespassing, public nuisance, obstruction of traffic, littering violations and burnt out tail lights everywhere they went...to my knowledge, they've been very careful not to cross any of those lines. They have every right to stand along the roadside and express their feelings as do the people who are standing along the roadside in support of the fallen service members and their families. Put it this way...if the Phelps's were there in support of the families, holding signs, and crying and wailing in grief, would anybody question their right to do so? What if they were demonstrating against the radical muslims responsible for the soldiers death? The fact that people object to them is based solely on their (admittedly repugnant) message, and their message alone
and to start saying that some messages are allowable, while others are not is treading on dangerous territory.
Just because we have free speech doesn’t mean you can say what you want. The way I see it, before someone opens his or her mouth to say something, it is best to engage the brain, What you say can have consequences. One needs only to remember that shouting fire in a crowded theater can get you in big trouble
Setting aside the examples I offered for a moment, it appears on review that this case is not a first amendment issue at all. No one tried to stop Phelps from exercising his rights to speech, and as others have pointed out there was no action at all by any government at any level. Rather, we have one individual suing another for damage based on invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Based on the fact that that Phelps not only sought out the family from a 1,000 miles away but also specifically named the deceased soldier in a poem that was published online, titled “The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder,” in which Phelps wrote that his parents, “raised him for the devil” I would say this fits the bill. Snyder’s father suffered not only mental anguish but physical damage as well, having vomited upon reading the garage Phelps wrote. This is stalking, harassment, and abuse, pure and simple. The review court misapplied the first amendment, IMHO.
It is and it isn't, and I'll certainly be interested in seeing what the supremes rule on it. Certainly the Phelps's have always skirted the edges on a number of issues, and we'll see if the supremes opine whether or not they crossed the line.
In any case, I can almostly certainly guarantee that any ruling against the WBC will set a precedent that will be used against the right by Holder before Obama's first term is over.
Agreed first and foremost...free speech for all or free speech for no one. Their tactics make me vomit. Disgusting. EXCEPT nothing prohibits the pastors speech elsewhere. Scalia referred to a protective cone near abortion clinics, iirc. That should the common ground.
I don’t believe this is a freedom of speech issue at all, it’s a freedom to assemble issue. Nobody is saying that the snake Phelps can’t spew his vile opinions, he just can’t directly target a family’s funeral to do so. He can exercise his freedom of speech “x” number of feet away from funeral gatherings because they other family has a right to be there and not be verbally assaulted.
As I said, it’s more a conflict of freedom of assembling - Phelps has a freedom to assemble, but so does the family, and both groups can’t occupy the same square footage of land at the same time. The funeral is a private individual’s one-time ceremony and that should take precedence over the Phelps’ clan demand to occupy the same area and vomit their hatred.... they can even do so at the same exact time, just at one of a million different other public locations.
Here is how I would like to see the SCOTUS come down on this issue:
1. Private groups have the right to assemble to protest but as far as personal funerals are concerned they may not intrude on the cemetary grounds while the service is being conducted. Any such group may protest off cemetary grounds during funeral services in order to respect the dead and the family of the deceased.
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