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First Amendment "protects" rights of funeral protesters?

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AP - The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the First Amendment protects fundamentalist church members who mount anti-gay protests outside military funerals, despite the pain they cause grieving families.

Now that is just not right. The Supremes once again show that they have no philosophical compass. Sheesh.

- ico

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While the Westboro Baptist Church is vile and disgusting, in this instance the Supreme Court is correct - they are protected by the right to free speech. As ARC pointed out on their blog a while back, the obvious solution is more private property. The jerks would have nowhere to protest.

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As depraved as these people are Zoid is correct, Icosahedron.

What is the purpose of freedom of speech if it only protects speech that isn't objectionable?

The purpose of the First Amendment is there to ensure that people can say things that the majority or the government, or the church or any other entity would rather not have voiced.

The problematic aspect of freedom is that people are free to be as scummy as they choose to be.

That said, if a grieving parent were to say..... bludgeon one of these tools into oblivion I'd be the first person on the jury to accept a "fighting words" defense.

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While the Westboro Baptist Church is vile and disgusting, in this instance the Supreme Court is correct - they are protected by the right to free speech. As ARC pointed out on their blog a while back, the obvious solution is more private property. The jerks would have nowhere to protest.

Whose property do they protest on, anyways? Why doesn't the cemetery or wherever just throw them out?

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Whose property do they protest on, anyways? Why doesn't the cemetery or wherever just throw them out?

Generally they protest on "public property" outside the cemetaries- the sidewalks and such. In most instances I have read about they have obtained legal permits to do so.

At first they were very loud and so those objecting to these protests (as any decent, right minded person would) were able to get the police involved as a matter of disturbing the peace. The protestors then starting just standing relatively quietly (no speakers, megaphones or chanting) with their vile signs.

In many ways the granting of permits for these people to spew forth their disgusting beliefs is much like the debates of the 80's and 90's when people were questioning whether local governments had to grant permits to KKK rallies and such.

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It's shocking to me how many people think the members of this church do not have the legal right to protest as they see fit. The fact that a jury awarded this man millions of $$$, when the protest was over a hundred yards away, is just staggering. It reeks of the "free speech as long as I agree with it" syndrome, that large numbers of Americans across the political spectrum seem to suffer from, these days. Phelps and his ilk are the worst sort of vile creature that Christianity produces in the modern age, but 8 of the 9 SCOTUS justices got this one completely right. The quote from Alito's dissent indicates little or no objection other than "this speech is offensive."

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Let me change the context slightly to show you what I see.

Imagine if someone decides to stand in the street out front of your house, yelling obscenities at/about you at the top of their lungs so that you can hear them over the television and can't sleep because of the noise, and holding signs that indict your character, and harassing you and/or your visitors as they try to pass.

What are the essential differences between this context, and standing outside a funeral doing the same thing -- other than the fact that, at the funeral, the obscenerators are actually subjecting EVEN MORE people to their temper tantrum?

Free speech means free expression, not freedom to yell and scream and generally harass others.

That's my point: expanding rights beyond their natural meaning is just as dishonest and despicable as restricting rights.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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First of all, it is unnecessary to make 4 separate, consecutive posts, when a single post containing all your points and questions will do just fine.

More to the point: There is indeed a reasonable expectation of not being harassed while in public, and certainly of not being harassed while you are inside private property and your harasser is standing just outside the property line. However, that is not what happened in this case. As Roberts points out in his opinion, the protesters were over 100 yards away and could be avoided with a minimum of effort. If the court were to rule that they violated the family's right to a peaceful funeral, that opens the door for legal challenges to war protests--even if not directly targeting the funeral--since family members of the deceased might find them offensive.

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Alright I must admit I missed the "quiet and 100 yards away", tho' I'm still not happy being exposed to that when I'm grieving. But I guess I can get philosophical about it at that point -- still don't get how this is free speech, rather than free assembly. Is the media just calling anything under the First Amendment "free speech"? Or did the Supremes actually state it that way?

And please: free assembly and free speech are different. Neither of these are the root Right (life, property, self-determination -- one of these will do, depending on how you do the math -- they are logically equivalent if properly stated in any case), but both are deducible from the root.

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Alright I must admit I missed the "quiet and 100 yards away", tho' I'm still not happy being exposed to that when I'm grieving. But I guess I can get philosophical about it at that point -- still don't get how this is free speech, rather than free assembly. Is the media just calling anything under the First Amendment "free speech"? Or did the Supremes actually state it that way?

And please: free assembly and free speech are different. Neither of these are the root Right (life, property, self-determination -- one of these will do, depending on how you do the math -- they are logically equivalent if properly stated in any case), but both are deducible from the root.

The free speech aspect of their demonstrations refers to the signs they display. Speech in this context does not have to be verbal.

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AP - The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the First Amendment protects fundamentalist church members who mount anti-gay protests outside military funerals, despite the pain they cause grieving families.

Now that is just not right. The Supremes once again show that they have no philosophical compass. Sheesh.

- ico

This has nothing to do with philosophy but the law as it stands right now, and they acted in the appropriate fashion. This is just another issue that could be resolved through private property. When free speech only applies to messages that you approve, free speech is officially dead. No one thats halfway decent likes this fact in this specific context, but the consequences of acting otherwise are much worse.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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still don't get how this is free speech, rather than free assembly. Is the media just calling anything under the First Amendment "free speech"? Or did the Supremes actually state it that way?

And please: free assembly and free speech are different. Neither of these are the root Right (life, property, self-determination -- one of these will do, depending on how you do the math -- they are logically equivalent if properly stated in any case), but both are deducible from the root.

As Dante correctly pointed out- their message, as presented in signs is about freedom of speech.

I'll add the the freedom of assembly part is the actually grouping together to protest.

Since their right to assemble was never at issue, only what they presented upon assembling, it is a free speech issue not an assembly issue.

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The first step in being objective is to have the facts at hand.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Syllabus

SNYDER v. PHELPS ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

No. 09–751. Argued October 6, 2010—Decided March 2, 2011

For the past 20 years, the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church has picketed military funerals to communicate its belief that God hates the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality, particularly in America’s military. The church’s picketing has also condemned the Catholic Church for scandals involving its clergy. Fred Phelps, who founded the church, and six Westboro Baptist parishioners (all relatives of Phelps) traveled to Maryland to picket the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq in the line of duty. The picketing took place on public land approximately 1,000 feet from the church where the funeral was held, in accordance with guidance from local law enforcement officers. The picketers peacefully displayed their signs—stating, e.g., “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Fags Doom Nations,” “America is Doomed,” “Priests Rape Boys,” and “You’re Going to Hell”—for about 30 minutes before the funeral began. Matthew Snyder’s father (Snyder), petitioner here, saw the tops of the picketers’ signs when driving to the funeral, but did not learn what was written on the signs until watching a news broadcast later that night.

The plaintiffs have no case, not even a harassment case.

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I am disgusted by Alito's ruling. I guess it shows what modern Republicans are really about.

That's my point: expanding rights beyond their natural meaning is just as dishonest and despicable as restricting rights.

The only attempt to afford an undue right here came with the original ruling. You do not have the right to restrict what others may say in your presence (even less so outside your presence, like it apparently happened here), in a space you do not own.

Why must I be subject to the outbursts of others, exactly?

Because you like to spend time in places you don't own, I assume. Why do you think you have the right to prevent others from saying whatever they wish, in spaces that are not your property?

Edited by Tanaka
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I am disgusted by Alito's ruling. I guess it shows what modern Republicans are really about.

Why is Republican appointee Alito more representative of what modern Republicans are about than 3 Republican appointees Roberts, Thomas, and Scalia?

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I'm actually surprised it was a Republican that dissented here. Given the extreme religious, right-wing nature of the protesters--not to mention the fact that the left frequently tries to silence its opponents, these days--I was surprised that none of the liberal justices dissented.

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That doesn't make any sense.

I think the point is that, because politicians are constantly attempting to appeal to their constituency, the appointment of any Supreme Court judge reflects what the ruling party at that time thought would best appeal to their base. Since he is the most recent Republican appointee, he is the most recent "best reflection" of the Republican base. However, considering how much the Republican Party has changed in the five years since Alito was appointed, I don't think he serves this reflective indication much better than anyone else.

EDIT: And, of course, judges themselves can change their behavior as well, either once they are appointed, or gradually over the course of five years.

Edited by Dante
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I think the point is that, because politicians are constantly attempting to appeal to their constituency, the appointment of any Supreme Court judge reflects what the ruling party at that time thought would best appeal to their base. Since he is the most recent Republican appointee, he is the most recent "best reflection" of the Republican base. However, considering how much the Republican Party has changed in the five years since Alito was appointed, I don't think he serves this reflective indication much better than anyone else.

EDIT: And, of course, judges themselves can change their behavior as well, either once they are appointed, or gradually over the course of five years.

That's still a completely flawed logic because so many Americans vote for "the lesser of two evils" anyway- even within their own party affiliation. As many people vote against the other candidate as vote for their own guy. For example next vote I will vote for anyone who isn't Obama and in other races I will vote against anyone who voted for Obamacare (likely as not)So the president who gets voted in may not be a great representation of the desires of his party. From there, that president does need to appease their own party with appointments but they also need to nominate someone who the other party will either not have the desire to block or will be unable to.

When people get nominated there is now prevalent a certain pandering to special interest groups that may be seen as politically wise but again, doesn't represent the will of the average person or the majority within a party. So much focus is now on some artificial notion of "diversity". A candidate is likely to be nominated in part because they are Hispanic, black, gay, or any number of minority groups. It can be seen as advantageous to be able to scream "RACIST!" when someone tries to block the opponent.

I'm sorry, that statement (the one I was responding to) is just irrational.

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I'm actually surprised it was a Republican that dissented here. Given the extreme religious, right-wing nature of the protesters--not to mention the fact that the left frequently tries to silence its opponents, these days--I was surprised that none of the liberal justices dissented.

You may be surprised to know that most Republicans actually hate the Westboro Baptist Church, and have no reason to be biased in favor of them. Even most religious groups want them to shut up. The Westboro Baptists are Christian cannibals.

Also, I would hardly call these people "right-wing". Fred Phelps is a registered Democrat, and many WBC folks were against the war in Iraq. Not everyone who is virulently homophobic and deranged is right-wing.

Edited by Black Wolf
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