Yet another First Amendment decision that is sure to be unpopular
April 21, 2011 Leave a comment
The United States Supreme Court handed down United States v. Stevens yesterday. I was happy and yet sad. Happy that the First Amendment is still alive and kicking, but sad to see that it protects depictions of animal cruelty (dog fighting).
As much as I hate dog fighting, Stevens comes in a distant second to what is sure to be the most unpopular First Amendment case this year. No doubt that award goes to Snyder v. Phelps. Snyder is the case involving the Westboro
Cult “Baptist Church” members protesting the funeral of a fallen soldier. I must confess, I find myself agreeing with the dissent on this case. Justice Alito said it well
Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.
Petitioner Albert Snyder is not a public figure. He is simply a parent whose son, Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq. Mr. Snyder wanted what is surely the right of any parent who experiences such an incalculable loss: to bury his son in peace. But respondents, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, deprived him of that elementary right. They first issued a press release and thus turned Matthew’s funeral into a tumultuous media event. They then appeared at the church, approached as closely as they could without trespassing, and launched a malevolent verbal attack on Matthew and his family at a time of acute emotional vulnerability. As a result, Albert Snyder suffered severe and lasting emotional injury. The Court now holds that the First Amendment protected respondents’ right to brutalize Mr. Snyder. I cannot agree.