Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Westboro Church

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Supreme Court ruled on what may be the most controversial case this term: Snyder v. Phelps. Pastor Fred Phelps leads a small crusade against homosexuality. His Topeka, Kansas based Westboro Baptists Church has become infamous for protesting outside the funerals of fallen soldiers. Soldiers like Lance Corporal Mathew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. Snyder’s father, Albert, filed the suit against Phelps and his church for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of distress.

Yesterday the Supreme Court decided 8-to-1 in favor of Phelps church. Joining us to help understand the significant social and legal implications to the court's ruling, we speak with Charles Haynes, director of The Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum. And for the future of the Westboro Church’s mission we speak to Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.


Charles Haynes and Mark Potok

Produced by:

Hsi-Chang Lin

Comments [4]

The free speech issue tends to play out in a way that bites back. The privacy issue has similar elements, and even often becomes the free speech issue that bites back .
A few years ago there was the issue of "Upskirting," (men placing hidden cameras in public places so as to be able to photograph under women's skirts and publish the photos on the internet or elsewhere). Certain lawyers protected the practice saying it is a matter of free speech, and said that anyone in public cannot expect privacy. However, soon afterward a woman started a campeign in which she urged all women whom are approached in public by men making lewd comments or exposing themselves, to use their cell phones to photograph the perverts so that the photos can be put on the internet. Then there was talk about how a "Big Brother" mentality has made ordinary citizens take the law in their hands and expose people whom may be unpopular but whom have rights to privacy even on public streets and subway trains and busses and parks.

Maybe those who claim to strictly uphold free speech ought to be forced to prove it by being legally required to tell the public and the media everything that they otherwise aren't telling anyone. Maybe those religious groups shouting anti-gay words at funerals ought to be made to tell the public about their funding sources and how much money the church's pastors take for themselves and how much they give to charity.

Mar. 03 2011 05:43 PM
Margaret from Manhattan

It may be a shame that there's no legal way to restrict sociopaths intruding on somber, and other, occasons; but the potential positive is that if there are such among us, we get to see who and where they are, and have the chance to defend ourselves from them - like the KKK being allowed a parade permit.
You're like the KKK being allowed a parade permit - //we're actually glad, after all, you're not allowed to be hermits.//As long as we can see you coming,// we have a chance to get the wires humming; keep real realization coming; get past that false a chant and drumming.// Calling yourselves a Christian church//leaves some who believe in decent and charitable ways in the lurch.//You can use a concise, old school read about gays; but need to clean up using the name, and being non-Christian in ways.// What ever happened to, "Love your enemy", "Hate the sin, not the sinner"?//Whoever gets past you with equanimity's the real winner.//
You're a corrupt lot, with the titillation of being negatively powerful paying you -//Thank God for those who are the real Church in their hearts staying true.//When they show that being gay is genetic,//bet that'll make you really frenetic.//What if it's intrinsic to being to be gay?//How then will you fault someone's God-given way?// Better to be civil, sensible gay citizens, than to be otherworldy, hateful, nonsensical denizens.

Mar. 03 2011 04:16 PM

If the ACLU, and a majority of the Supreme court that includes Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia and Thomas, as well as Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Kagan, all agree that this sort of plainly offensive speech is protected under the First Amendment...
One might also think that corporate organizations' civil speech on matters of public, electoral, regulatory and legislative interest would also be protected.

And that people might re-think the media-driven knee-jerk opposition to the Court's other free-speech decisions like Citizens United v. FEC.

Mar. 03 2011 11:02 AM
George from Orlando

You can't fix stupid!

Mar. 03 2011 08:54 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.