The Supreme Court will hear the case of Snyder v. Phelps
, which will
decide whether Fred Phelps's Westboro Baptist Church had the right to
protest near the funeral of Albert Snyder's son. The controversial church,
known for its raucously offensive protests marked by signs reading "God
Hates Fags," has come to target the funerals of veterans. (They claim God
kills U.S. soldiers as punishment for gay Americans.) One such protest targeted Matthew Snyder of Maryland, who was killed in Iraq. Phelps insists that his group's
speech is protected, while Albert Snyder contends that he is owed damages for "the
intentional infliction of emotional distress." Here's why the case
- 'Distress' vs. Free Speech UPI's Harriet Robbins Ost warns, "it's possible the
speech-related practices of an obnoxious group will be curbed -- but at
the price of some new First Amendment fetters." She says the case asks
"Whether the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment trumps
its freedom of religion and peaceful assembly clauses."
Battle for Snyder The Washington Post's Robert Barnes writes,
"Despite the political firepower, First Amendment specialists think
Albert Snyder has a difficult case to prove to a court that has been
particularly outspoken on government attempts to regulate speech and has
accepted two privacy cases for the term that begins in the fall. George
Washington University law professor Daniel J. Solove, the author of 'Understanding Privacy,' said he finds it 'perplexing' that the justices
took the case. The message of Phelps and his followers is 'stupid and
obnoxious,' Solove said, 'but seems to fit squarely into the kind of
unpopular speech that the Constitution protects.'"
- Could Have
'Huge Effect' on Free Speech Law University of Missouri law
professor and first amendment expert Christina Wells warns the
ruling could be much broader than just the details of the immediate
case. "This case has huge implications for where the court is going with
the ‘right to privacy in public spaces’ and the ‘captive audience’
doctrines, which have been a big problem for the Supreme Court. I don’t
know what they will decide, but regardless of how the court rules, it
will have a huge effect." Well adds, "The court may reach a decision
that interprets the law more broadly and less in line with free speech
precedents than one would hope. This is a case about whether or not the
court can see beyond the content of Phelps’ speech when applying its
- Politicians Nationwide Champion Case
McClatchy's Mike Doyle reports,
"Politicians used the onset of Memorial Day weekend to side with the
sentimental favorite in the upcoming Supreme Court case Snyder v.
Phelps. ... On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined other
veteran-loving lawmakers in filing an amicus brief in the high-profile
case. ... Siding with the Snyder family becomes a proxy for being a
supporter of veterans. That is to say, it's more a political statement
than a weighing of constitutional values."
- 48 States File on
Behalf of Snyder The Associated Press reports,
"Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have submitted a brief
to the Supreme Court in support of a father who sued anti-gay
protesters over their demonstration at the 2006 funeral of his son, a
Marine killed in Iraq. Only Virginia and Maine declined to sign the
brief by the Kansas attorney general."
- Bill O'Reilly: I'll Pay
Snyder's Legal Bill Fox News Host Bill O'Reilly declared in March,
"Mr. Snyder won in the beginning and then lost on appeal, and
incredibly, the court has ordered him to pay more than $16,000 in court
costs to the Westboro people. That is an outrage, and I will pay Mr.
Snyder's obligation. I am not going to let this injustice stand. ... Mr.
Snyder is fighting a good fight, and he is taking his case to the
Supreme Court. We are behind him 100 percent."
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