Supreme Court Rules Westboro Baptist Protesters Protected by Free Speech

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Westboro Baptist ChurchThe Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that the protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church have the right to picket near military funerals, but did make it clear that local and state governments can limit how close they can get to the actual cemeteries.

The Justices of the Supreme Court ruled in a controversial 8-1 ruling that the guarantee of freedom of speech outlined in the Constitution permits members of the Kansas church to congregate near the funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq singing hymns and carrying signs with such sayings as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”.

However, the ruling was very narrow and only involved the financial damages in the case. Chief Justice John Roberts stated that the ruling did not impact a lot of the laws in 44 states which restrict how close protesters can get to the funeral site.

According to Roberts, “To the extent these laws are content neutral, they raise very different questions from the tort verdict at issue in this case.” The Justices tossed out an award of $5 million in damages that a federal court had previously awarded Albert Snyder whose son, Matthew, was a Marine who was killed in 2006. Matthew was not gay and was buried at a Catholic church in Maryland.

“Simply put, the church members had the right to be where they were,” Roberts wrote in the court’s opinion. “Given that the church’s speech was at a public place on a matter of public concern, that speech is entitled to ‘special protection’ under the First Amendment.”

Roberts also wrote that “speech is powerful. It can stir people into action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and –as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.”

Joining on Robert’s side of the majority were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Stephen H. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayer, Elena Kagan and Anthony Kennedy.

In a separate opinion, Breyer wrote that “a state can sometimes regulate picketing, even picketing on matters of public concern. The Court’s ruling does not hold or imply that the state is always powerless to provide private individuals with necessary protections.”

At the funeral of Matthew Snyder, the protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church were about 1,000 feet away from the funeral. The sole Justice who voted against the protests, Justice Samuel Alito, wrote that “our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”

Alito also pointed out that Snyder was not a public figure and only wanted to bury his son in peace. Alito argued that the court’s majority protected the rights of the protesters to “brutalize” Snyder. “In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims,” Alito argued.

While I personally believe in the right to freedom of speech, I believe that the Westboro Baptist Church has crossed a serious line and something has to be done about it.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch – Supreme Court rules for strident anti-gay church

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Kansas "Church" to Protest Elizabeth Edwards' Funeral

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Westboro Baptist ChurchFunerals are never easy. The loss of a close loved one is like losing a part of yourself. Typically the ones going through the funeral are surrounded by love, sympathy, compassion and caring people. However, while the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, former Senator John Edwards’ late wife, will be filled with people who cared dearly about Elizabeth as well as those close to her, it will also be filled with hate, anger and the rants of the absurd.

The Westboro Baptist Church out of Kansas, which is known for picketing outside of the funerals of fallen soldiers, has released a statement saying that they will protest outside of the funeral of Edwards. The group plans on disrupting the funeral by saying that Edwards’ wife is quote “going to hell” for doubting her faith when her oldest son passed away in 1996.

Edwards, a political wife turned staunch advocate for affordable health care, passed away on Tuesday due to complications from breast cancer at the age of 61. The funeral is planned for tomorrow, December 11th, at the Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Edwards is then to be buried at the Oakwood Cemetery alongside her son Wade who passed away in a car accident at the age of 16.

In more absurd statements from representatives of the Westboro Baptist Church, “God heard self-absorbed Elizabeth as she rode the talk show circuit spewing blasphemy. Elizabeth Edwards and her faithless husband, John, lightly esteemed what they had. They coveted things that were not theirs and presumptuously thought they could control God.”

Like I mentioned above, the Westboro Baptist Church and its members, essentially the “extended family” of Pastor Fred Phelps, are no strangers to picketing funerals and are based in Topeka, Kansas. Members of the church planned on protesting a funeral in Indiana today of a fallen soldier killed in Afghanistan.

People are not sitting idly by while the “church” does this, however. The Supreme Court is currently deciding a case in which the father of a fallen soldier is suing the church after they protested his son’s funeral. The church members are defending themselves by saying they are only exercising their First Amendment Rights.

With the death of Elizabeth, John becomes the primary caretaker of the younger children of the family. According to ABC News, Edwards plans on moving back into the 28,000-square-foot mansion the couple built and once shared. John Edwards has thus far made no comments since his wife’s death.

Whatever this “church” claims to be, they are definitely not preaching the message of God. These radicals are a disgrace to the religion of Christianity and, in my opinion, a disgrace to humanity. If you want to see just how ridiculous the members of the Westboro Baptist Church really are, then check out this video of one of their members.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4QcyEjMydk]

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