The Supreme Court today ruled that the Westboro Baptist Church does, in fact, have the right to protest at military funerals: the protests qualify as First Amendment protection. The church is known for these obtrusive protests at military funerals, in which they chant and carry signs that "draw attention to their incendiary view that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality," the Associated Press explains.
The family of one fallen Marine, whose funeral had received the Westboro treatment, sued the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Today, eight of the Supreme Court justices agreed that the Reverend Fred Phelps and his family-filled church have the right to promote their views publicly, even if those views are offensive to others. According to ABA Journal, Justice Samuel Alito, the one dissenter in the decision, argued that the dead Marine in question "was not a public figure, and there is no First Amendment right to 'brutalize' the grieving father."
Though some agree with Alito, the general consensus in the blogosphere on the ruling is that, despite popular disgust with the Phelps family's argument, our constitution gives them every right to make it. Slate's Dave Weigel, informed on Twitter that the court had ruled Westboro had a right to protest at funerals, responded "Good. They do." Ernie Smith at Shortformblog confesses, "the fact of the matter is, while we would've loved to see Westboro blocked from picketing funerals as a political message, the First Amendment is pretty set in stone and, as much as we like the ramifications of this decision, it certainly was the right one." Goldy at The Seattle Stranger's Blog had a quotable little reaction: "it's heartening to know that our Constitution still loves free speech even more than Phelps hates fags." And the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jay Bookman agrees, writing that "tolerating the rants of hateful fools is part of the price we pay for free speech."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.