03 March 2011

SCOTUS rules in favor of "God hates fags" group

Free speech: 1, Decency: 0

I never thought I'd ever agree with "Reverend" Fred Phelps and his Kansas-based Westboro Baptist flock of bigots about anything. But yesterday I came to the awkward realization that the impossible has happened.

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Westboro's disgusting picketing at military funerals is protected under the First Amendment. The ruling was the result of a court case filed by the father of Matthew Snyder, a soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2006. As the Washington Post explains, Albert Snyder accused the Westboro group of "intentionally inflicting emotional distress" both by picketing his son's funeral and by posting "a poem on the church's website that attacked Matthew's parents for the way they brought up their son."

The Westboro folks, for those who are unfamiliar, typically picket military funerals as well as gay-rights events with their slogan "God hates fags". They believe that the military deaths are God's punishment for what they perceive as the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

While my heart bleeds for Matthew's parents, I have to agree with the Court here. If they had ruled that the Westboro group cannot express their disgusting views, which group or individual would next be censored?

It brings to mind a phrase commonly attributed to Voltaire but actually coined by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in a biography of the French philosopher: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

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