March 2, 2011 3 Comments
Earlier today, the Supreme Court (U.S.) released its decision on Snyder v. Phelps. This is the case where Snyder, the father of a fallen Marine, sued Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church for picketing his son’s funeral.
The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Phelpses.
Having read the decision, the decision in favor of Westboro troubles me. It seems that the Court has taken the easy way out (though undoubtedly unpopular).
Firstly, it does not even consider Westboro’s actions as harassing, only as “speech on broad public issues.” Secondly, it holds that the signs that specifically target Lance Corporal Snyder and his family were irrelevant, because their overall message was one speaking of “moral” and “religious” issues. The Court also holds that since the protest was on public property, complying with police orders, and out of sight of the church itself, that while the protest was scheduled and located to be in the same place and time as Lance Corporal Snyder’s funeral, it was not intentionally causing emotional distress. Thirdly, they did not consider a posting by a member of Westboro post-funeral that personally attacked Matthew and his parents, (though it was brought up at trial) which would prove that the protest was not public commentary, but rather a personal attack. (Since apparently, the signs were not enough. I won’t quote them here, because they’re triggering and hateful, but if you wish to know, some are mentioned in the New York Times article, and most in the Court’s decision itself.)
Justice Alito was the sole dissenter, and wrote a very good opinion. I urge you to read it, even if you’re not interested in reading the entire decision, which is thirty-six pages long. Alito’s dissent begins on page twenty-three of the PDF.
Here are some excerpts from Alito’s dissent: