Thursday, March 3, 2011

Note to the Supreme Court : Free Speech is Not Hate Speech

Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito and I don't usually share the same point of view,  but yesterday I think he was right on the money with his lone dissent in the case of Snyder vs.Phelps  in which the Court ruled that the  Westboro Baptist Church,(which is neither Baptist nor a church, but rather is the crazy family cult of Topeka based  self proclaimed pastor Fred Phelps and his extended family) was totally within its rights to picket the funerals of dead American soldiers, spewing their verbal and sandwich-board filth at mourners,

Basically, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court, was that the First Amendment gave the anti-gay, anti- American, anti-Catholic cult the right to picket and demonstrate outside a Catholic church during the funeral for Albert Snyder's 20 year old son, a United States Marine killed in action. Snyder contended that his and his family's civil rights were being violated at a private and emotionally vulnerable moment  by the disruption of the funeral.

I am astounded that Judge Alito is the only one of the nine Supreme Court Justices who agreed. Here's a bit of what he said:

"Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case." 
He called the 2006 demonstration outside the Snyder funeral

  "a malevolent verbal attack on Matthew and his family at a time of acute emotional vulnerability."
I agree.  Free speech does not give you the right to yell " fire" in a crowded theater.  This ruling may be technically defensible but it is morally wrong.  It encourages violent reprisals and I believe there will be some. Several states have already passed laws forbidding  the picketing of funerals and local bikers have escorted the Westboro crowd out of town before they could do any damage on more than one occasion.  In Oklahoma the tires on their van were slashed and who knows what will happen as their hateful protests escalate in the coming months.


JamaGenie said...

I think Alito's colleagues are totally wrong on this one. Obviously the narrowest constitutionality of this issue is their only priority, not whether it's morally correct or not. Bravo, then, for the states who've stepped up to ban WBC's "protests", and the motorcycle groups who've stepped up to shield grieving families from WBC and their filthy signs.

mommapolitico said...

Thanks for your post, Packrat. It's an important one. I'm a huge defender of freedom of speech, and I realize that it's challenging to let those you hate speak out. But if the GOP can create a 10x10 free speech zone five blocks away from their convention, why the hell can't funerals have their own free speech zone that far away as well? Hate speech is a slippery slope, but this is one of those times that families deserve some dignity for their fallen sons and daughters, and the haters can go elsewhere.

Surprising verdict - glad you covered this important story. Keep fighting the good fight, Girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

Such hypocritical BS. Yes, Westboro is disgusting and we are all soooo upset with them, but Fox news tells more lies and is more contemptuous by far yet we tolerate them just fine because of their journalistic integrity. Bullshit.

Frozin said...

Just because you don't like what is being said doesn't mean that speech should be infringed upon. The 8 justices were correct in defending the churches speech. Whether you liked what was being said or not doesn't matter.

For you to suggest adding more free speech zones shows you do not cherish or respect the 1st amendment. Free speech zones stifle freedom of speech. It allows government to hide the protestors.

pinkpackrat said...

@Mark Not sure what your point is-- soooo because Fox news is not shut down, offensive hate speech from WEstboro Baptist Church( which is a cult not a church) should also be tolerated and if I object to it I am a hypocrite? Doesn't make much sense to me I'm afraid. There is a line between free speech and slander and the Westboro Baptist Chruch crosses it-- no hypocrisy just fact.

pinkpackrat said...

@Frozin-- I'm going to say it again-- there is a difference between free speech and hate speech. You are allowed to voice your opinion but you are not allowed to yell fire in a crowded theater and cause a stampede to the exits in which people die. If you do you will be prosecuted.

Your point about the free speech zones I think refers to MommaPolitico's comment and I'll let her respond if she wants to..... I feel strongly about free speech and am old enough to remember when the Ku Klux Klan was allowed to march through a suburban Chicago neighborhood full of Holocost survivers yelling anit-semitic insults. A riot ensued and the march was stopped by police. That march was the kind of thing the Westboro Baptist Church is doing and it is an insult to free speech.