Thursday, March 03, 2011

Freedom wins

No, no, Gaddafi is still in power; this has to do with freedom of speech in America.

A few months back, I had mentioned the Westboro case that the Supreme Court was hearing then. The suit was filed by the father of a deceased U.S. Marine against members of the anti-homosexual Westboro church for intruding on his privacy by demonstrating at the son's funeral.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court held in favor of Westboro, on grounds that the First Amendment shields the demonstrators from the lawsuit. As much as the church's actions are despicable, the court's ruling is reassuring. One interesting assertion forming the basis of the opinion is that whether agreeable or not, the issue the church was demonstrating about was of public concern.
"The content of Westboro’s signs plainly relates to public, rather than private, matters. The placards highlighted issues of public import—the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens, the fate of the Nation, homosexuality in the military....and Westboro conveyed its views on those issues in a manner designed to reach as broad a public audience as possible."
Thus establishing that the demonstration was on a public issue, the rest was simple. Drawing from precedent, the court said:
"Speech on public issues occupies the 'highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values' and is entitled to special protection."
Then, the fact that the Marine's father was emotional hurt by the protest becomes immaterial:
"The context of the speech—its connection with Matthew Snyder’s funeral—cannot by itself transform the nature of Westboro’s speech."
Even as the Chief Warmonger is positioning his toys vis-a-vis Libya, all Americans should celebrate the victory of freedom of speech at home.

Read the full opinion here. The summary on the first four pages is truly worth your time.

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