The Washington Post is reporting that the Supreme Court reached a nearly unanimous decision on Wednesday that the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech about public issues and upheld the right of Westboro Baptist Church to protest near military funerals. Robert Barnes reports, “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church’s picketing ‘is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible.’ But he said government ‘cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.’ “
Justice Samuel Alito, the only dissenter on the court wrote, “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.” The case concerned Westboro’s picketing at the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, 20, who was killed in Iraq, where church members held up signs that said, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God Hates Fags” and “America Is Doomed.”
Westboro Baptist Church members must have forgotten that God doesn’t like ugly, and picketing funerals is just about the ugliest, most vile thing that anyone can do. Hopefully the Supreme Court will have a ruling for people who are verbally assaulted and harassed to such an extent that they take matters into their own hands, which is ultimately what will happen. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Free speech isn’t always free.
Read more at the Washington Post.
In other news: Henry Louis Gates Remembers the Rev. Peter Gomes.