Westboro believes that America is morally flawed; many Americans might feel the same about Westboro. Westboro's funeral picketing is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible. But Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials. The speech was indeed planned to coincide with Matthew Snyder's funeral, but did not itself disrupt that funeral, and Westboro's choice to conduct its picketing at that time and place did not alter the nature of its speech.
Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and - as it did here - inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course - to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate. That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
The Obvious Ruling
The right of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at military funerals is so obviously protected by the First Amendment that you have to wonder why the Supreme Court even took the case. Perhaps they just wanted to make sure that they never have to hear about these toads again. They ended up ruling 8-1 for Westboro, and I can only see Alito's dissent as a moral protest he would not have made if the ruling had been in doubt. From Roberts' decision: