First Amendment Showdown Tomorrow in SCOTUS

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral argument tomorrow in Snyder v. Phelps. SCOTUSblog has a great summary of the factual background and legal issues here.

This is the case where the father of a Marine killed serving in Iraq sued the Westboro Baptist Church for picketing his son’s Maryland funeral. Picketing, as in standing 1000 feet away with signs such as “God Hates Fags.” Westboro Baptist believes that God is killing U.S. military personnel due to our society’s tolerance of homosexuality and abortion, among other crazy ideas.

Mr. Snyder sued in Maryland federal court for intentional infliction of emotional distress. And won big time, to the tune of $11 million. Not that he would ever see a nickel of it, since fringe fundamentalist churches are rarely sitting on a pile of filthy lucre. The very conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit flipped the verdict on appeal on First Amendment grounds. Mr. Snyder and his lawyers petitioned for certiorari and the Supreme Court took the case.

I’m not sure how this will come out. I find abhorrent what these people did to Mr. Snyder. I also think that generally, the First Amendment protects our right to say whatever we want, no matter how offensive. I can’t wait to see how the Court resolves this, but I hope Mr. Snyder wins. The protesters right to swing their fist ends at his nose. After all, there are a lot of places around the world where what Westboro Baptist did gets the protesters lined up and shot, not sued. Mr. Snyder’s son died helping to turn Iraq from the former into the latter. Here, they can say whatever they want, but should be made to accept the consequences of doing so.

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