Snarky Brides

Is this free speech?

I need distraction from the mouse in my house.

What do you all think about the supreme court case regarding the Westboro Baptist Church protesting military funerals? Do you think the speech should be protected, or limited? Obviously it's wrong, but it is constitutional? Discuss!

Here's a link to catch you up: http://politics.usnews.com/news/articles/2010/10/06/supreme-court-weighs-free-speech-limits-in-military-funeral-case.html
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Re: Is this free speech?

  • Honestly no, I think that what they are doing is a direct violation of personal rights. I'm sorry but saying that "God Hates Fags" and yelling that someone's son was killed in action because America accepts homosexuals is not kosher. I'm all for free speech as long but we need to have limits.

    Yes I know, having limits is near impossible because how do you draw a line, but that's how I feel.
  • edited October 2010
    I REALLY hate to say this, but if my understanding of free speech is correct, then it is constitutional.

    But on that note, I will use my own rights to say FTR, that I think these people are disgusting, vile and completely useless on the planet earth. Seriously, fvck them. This makes me so angry.
  • I think your right Shaye, but I also think (please don't everyone hate me for saying this) that we need to take a hard look at the constitution as it stands and see if it is still right for our country. 

    In my mind these are hate crimes, pure and simple, and the people should be tried as such.
  • In Response to Re: Is this free speech?:
    The article I read said that they were following the law by staying 1000 feet from the funeral. It doesn't mean the entire funeral procession didn't have to drive through them.
    Posted by katiewhompus
    I think what this family should have done was contact their congressmen, and try to get the laws changed.  Someone seems to have forgotten their highschool civics class.  The Supreme Court isn't in the business of changing the law - they're there to enforce it.  As it stands now, the group followed the law, plain and simple.  The Supreme Court is going to support them, so now all that has come of it is free publicity for organization, and a huge public victory as well. 
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  • That's true Tide. They are fighting the wrong battle here.
  • But the case is being heard as a possible unconstitutional invasion of privacy. The marine's family has already sued for defamation at the circuit level.

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  • I have to say it is free speech.  It may be fighting words though.  Also, they can get emotional distress damages even if what was said was legal.  I think the court should point that out and make them pay.  The government can't stop them from saying it, but if they are inflicting intentional emotional distress the individuals can sue, and should win. 
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  • In Response to Re: Is this free speech?:
    But the case is being heard as a possible unconstitutional invasion of privacy. The marine's family has already sued for defamation at the circuit level.
    Posted by MarriedInAFever
    As I've always understood it, the right to privacy protected by the constitution, is protection from government infringements on privacy, not infringements by an individual. 
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  • Maybe this is just me being riled up, but does anyone else think this (countrywide this, not theknot this) would be an entirely different conversation if this were a Muslim or athiest group instead of Christian?

  • In Response to Re: Is this free speech?:
    In Response to Re: Is this free speech? : As I've always understood it, the right to privacy protected by the constitution, is protection from government infringements on privacy, not infringements by an individual. 
    Posted by tidetravel
    Well, there's just so much gray area. Technically, there isn't a right to privacy outlined in the constitution at all. I'm really torn. I would like to see this type of speech to be defined as hate speech and be limited. But, I don't see anything constitutionally wrong.
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  • This may be freedom of speech, but I also think it can qualify as harassment and slander.  It is awful and sick that these people felt they had the right to do this at a funeral.  Regardless of what happens on the law end of it, I really hope they have something coming to them one way or another. 

    On a side note, this is one of the major problems I have with religion in general.  People think it's their duty to carry out what they think is "God's will" all in the name of their religion.  You can practice whatever religion you like, as long as you don't shove it down my throat or do stunts like this that preach nothing but hate.  I honestly don't understand how they can even associate what they did with God.  It's sick.
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  • Maybe I'm reaching, and if so, it's because I watched The Hanoi Hilton last night and have personal connection to that place. But, this reminds me of the way Vietnam vets were treated upon their return. Granted, their treatment was on a much larger scale but it's still showing disrespect for someone who fought voluntarily/involuntarily and is/was protecting rights of free speech.

    Personal opinion, I do not believe they have any place at funerals, but I believe they chose their venue to make the most emotional and biggest news-drawing impact.

    I'd also like to ask the male "church" member pictured on msnbc today if he registered for SS properly. I think he was 18. If not, my bad.

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  • In Response to Re: Is this free speech?:
    Maybe this is just me being riled up, but does anyone else think this (countrywide this, not theknot this) would be an entirely different conversation if this were a Muslim or athiest group instead of Christian?
    Posted by katiewhompus
    I'm not sure what you're getting at.

    None of us are defending their beliefs, but I'm defending the fact that they are allowed to say whatever they want, and should be, because one person's unpopular opinion is someone else's line in the sand. Who's to say something I want to protest woudn't end up on a list of "things you can't protest" someday? Where's the line?
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  • Oh I know Mery. The little nagging voice in my head just says that if a group of Muslims showed up at an American funeral saying "Allah hates fags" or the same things this group is saying , that it would be immediately labeled as terrorism.

    I just think as a country we're pretty lenient with the "crazy Christians" while the public on a whole is quick to push for other religious groups to be silenced because they represent a threat.
  • I do not think the constitution was violated in this case but this group should be extremely careful because to me, their choice of words were borderline hate speech. Which will be a problem. You can say whatever you want but you cant say it however you want. I think that is the issue here. Either way, its disgusting and people should have enough respect for each other to know that a funeral is off limits.
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  • Two dudes knocked on my door yesterday and invited me to a Bible class. Then started quoting the Bible at me. It pissed me off for the rest of the night.
    I'm a somewhat religious person, but the mere assumption that if you're not a Christian then you are WRONG, pisses me off to no end.  I should have let me heathen husband answer the door. /rant 

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  • I <3 you Jas :) I make Scott answer the door now. I'm always really nice to the various door knockers and normally just tell them I will call them if I feel it is right at a later date. Normally they take the hint and go away. This group came back once a day for a week. I think Scott told them that since he was the head of our spiritual household his wife would become a Catholic and to stop trying to turn my soul to Satan....(obviously he was joking, I don't think they realized it)

    Jel I think you put what I'm thinking perfectly. You can say/think whatever it is you want to, but I do think there is a right way and a wrong way to say it
  • I think the only thing they are accomplishing by their ridiculous protests is turning tons of people away from Christianity. Good on ya guys. Idiots.

    I've posted this before, but it's worth posting again.
    http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/07/22/super-heroes-vs-the-westboro-baptist-church/

    Best protest ever.
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  • In Response to Re: Is this free speech?:
    Oh I know Mery. The little nagging voice in my head just says that if a group of Muslims showed up at an American funeral saying "Allah hates fags" or the same things this group is saying , that it would be immediately labeled as terrorism. I just think as a country we're pretty lenient with the "crazy Christians" while the public on a whole is quick to push for other religious groups to be silenced because they represent a threat.
    Posted by katiewhompus
    Oh maybe. But I tend to think the people who hate all Muslims are probably also very pro-military. (Not that crazy or ignorant people are pro-military. I'm just saying, they probably lean conservative if they're quick to label people terrorists. Again, not to insult conservatives.) I was just trying to point out that no matter their background, my answer would be the same.
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  • Agreed Missy. I just think to people who aren't religious, they look at groups like Westboro, and think that all Christians behave that way. Most of us are really rather normal. ;)
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  • Prior to college I had never met a "normal" Christian person, only the crazies. It was why I was very anti-Christian/don't pray for me/religion is bullshiit throughout high school. The only Christianity I was exposed to were the people telling me I was going to hell and making my life miserable.

    Thank goodness for college. Now i know there are normal people and crazy people.
  • See, beyond TK discussions and theology classes, I don't really talk about my religion much. It would feel weird to me to tell strangers why I think I'm right.
     Shiit, I'm not even convinced I am right.
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  • hate speech is not protected under the freedom of speech here in canada... i can't speak for the US but here, what those looney toons are doing would be considered a hate crime.

  • In Response to Re: Is this free speech?:
    See, beyond TK discussions and theology classes, I don't really talk about my religion much. It would feel weird to me to tell strangers why I think I'm right.  Shiit, I'm not even convinced I am right.
    Posted by jasmineh7777
    I think this is the most intelligent outlook.
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  • At first glance I immediately thought that the protesters were exercising free speech; however I starwted to wonder about some of the exceptions. While we are guaranteed free speech and freedom of the press there are obvious limitations (i.e. protection of personal privacy for non-public persons, prior restraint, etc.) and the one I'm struggling with is obscenity due to the use of the saying "God Hates F@gs". The Supreme Court issued the Miller Test to determine what is and isn't obscene, these are the three parts:

    1. Whether a reasonably prudent person would find that the work appeals to the prurient interest,

    2. Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law,

    3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value

    I'm pretty sure all three parts have to be met in order for something to be considered obscene and unfortunately I'm not sure that in this case having words like "F*g" on a poster even meet two of the three requirements, regardless of how offensive the words/message are.

    Honestly, as much as I advocate free speech, I just cannot condone those protesters but legally they were definitely within their rights. Do I think we need to make new laws to counteract situations like this?? This is where I have to back off. I'm not comfortable with the goverment taking away any of our free speech because I believe in the long run it will end up hurting more people than it helps.

  • In Response to Re: Is this free speech?:
    Prior to college I had never met a "normal" Christian person, only the crazies. It was why I was very anti-Christian/don't pray for me/religion is bullshiit throughout high school. The only Christianity I was exposed to were the people telling me I was going to hell and making my life miserable. Thank goodness for college. Now i know there are normal people and crazy people.
    Posted by katiewhompus
    I truly believe that Christians are the reason there are not more Christians.

    And I'm a Chrstian.
  • I think I like the saying "your freedom ends at the tip of my nose", meaning if your behavior is abusive/harrasing it is not automatically your right to say/scream it at me.

    Sexual harassment laws are an example of free speech curtailed in the interest of other people's rights. If you go to work today and your boss says "Wow, would I love to do you" even if s/he does NOT saying anything else (such as "and I better get to do you or you are out of here) you have a case for sexual harassment.

    Stalking laws are sometimes even an example of a curtailment of free speech in the interest of other's rights.

    So, how is it okay for people to show up at your brother/sister/mom's/sons/daughters funeral and harass you and your family? How is it NOT harassment that they are out there with signs yelling that your loved one is dead because the military has gays?
  • I actually grew up in Topeka, and saw these guys on an extremely regular basis.  It drives me nuts that they get so much coverage, because that's all they want out of this. They think that getting this message out will be their ticket to Heaven, so that's why they do it and it doesn't help at all that it's broadcast wherever they go.

    I think odds are the Supreme Court will rule in their favor, based on what I heard they said.  The big issue up for grabs is that the marine's father is claiming that the funeral is private and the grieving is private.  The courts have ruled in the past that someone cannot protest a private residence, so they are really debating the private vs. public matter and whether or not funerals and cemeteries constitute private or public.

    The government has no power to stop you from saying certain things with an exception of when where and in what manner.  So in some issues they can limit spoken obscenities, say near a school or playground, but they cannot blanket and say no obscenities anywhere.  In this particular case, I don't think they will ever outlaw what Phelps is saying, but they might be able to determine circumstances where it will be prohibited.


  • In Response to Re: Is this free speech?:
    I actually grew up in Topeka, and saw these guys on an extremely regular basis.  It drives me nuts that they get so much coverage, because that's all they want out of this. They think that getting this message out will be their ticket to Heaven, so that's why they do it and it doesn't help at all that it's broadcast wherever they go. I think odds are the Supreme Court will rule in their favor, based on what I heard they said.  The big issue up for grabs is that the marine's father is claiming that the funeral is private and the grieving is private.  The courts have ruled in the past that someone cannot protest a private residence, so they are really debating the private vs. public matter and whether or not funerals and cemeteries constitute private or public. The government has no power to stop you from saying certain things with an exception of when where and in what manner.  So in some issues they can limit spoken obscenities, say near a school or playground, but they cannot blanket and say no obscenities anywhere.  In this particular case, I don't think they will ever outlaw what Phelps is saying, but they might be able to determine circumstances where it will be prohibited.
    Posted by marissa_claire
    Place and circumstance is always the issue. Much as your boss can say in his own livingroom that he wants to do you, but if he says it to you, particularly at work it is sexual harrassment.

    These freaks have a right to say what they are saying, this right does not automatically extend to military funerals in the name of free speech.  I will look forward to the decision.
  • I think what they're doing is constitutional, but it's wrong.  They make me so very angry.

    I also think they have the right to say what they want, but the venue where they say it should be limited.  I think it's perfectly acceptable to say they have to be 100 yards away from the funeral - they can still say what they want, but at least from a much further distance.

    My understanding is that there are now a group of individuals who volunteer to shield the families from this group - they stand in several rows to block the visual image of these protesters.  Not sure what they do about the noise - maybe they play music or sing or something?  Anyway, I'd be all for volunteering for this type of thing.

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