Fresh off her Supreme Court win, the lawyer for Westboro (and Fred Phelps’ daughter) was on Fox News Sunday explaining her church’s protests to Chris Wallace. (Part one is above. Part two is over here.) OK, so they won their case, but does anyone else find this booking decision to be questionable? By our quick research, she doesn’t show up on TV all that often … the only other YouTube news clip we can find of her is one from C-SPAN from October. Phelps deserves a free-speech outlet, yes, but should News Corp. be the ones to offer said outlet? (For what it’s worth, Chris Wallace is way ahead of us on this question. He says the First Amendment issues are too important to ignore. Agree?)
» Sad, not surprising, but understandable: The fact of the matter is, while we would’ve loved to see Westboro blocked from picketing funerals as a political message, the First Amendment is pretty set in stone and, as much as we dislike the ramifications of this decision, it certainly was the right one. (By the way, the lone dissenter? Samuel Alito.)
spacecowboywhit said: Unless you could claim that Phelp’s protest falls under “fighting words”, which are not protected under the 1st amendement. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fi…
» We say: Agreed. If the SCOTUS decides against Phelps, it will probably be on this line of thought. The Phelps folks know the law (one of the members of the Phelps family is a lawyer who argued the military funeral case in front of the Supreme Court) and have tailored their message around it. Even so, our feeling is that the Supreme Court will likely decide against them. It’s still at least somewhat questionable that Arizona is jumping in front of this, though, and we fully expect another Westboro lawsuit here.
idroolinmysleep said: As despicable as the Phelps clan is, doesn’t this legislation set a bad 1st amendment precedent?
» We say: It probably does (and that admittedly is our big hang-up with it), but this does seem like a “act now, ask questions later” type of situation. (Note how we used “act now” instead of the usual term.) That said, we bet that the Supreme Court will clarify this when they decide on the military funerals decision. If anything, their eventual decision may be broader in the wake of the Giffords shooting.
This is a case about exploiting a private family’s grief.The question is: Why should the First Amendment tolerate exploiting this Marine’s family when you have so many other forums for getting across your message?Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg • Asking the best question of the day to Westboro Baptist Church lawyer (and member) Margie J. Phelps, who represented the church in their case against the family of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, whose funeral they protested way back in 2006. While wanting to favor free speech as much as possible, the justices clearly struggled with this case, with many trying to find a narrow path that allowed them to limit the private-person-damaging hate speech of a group like Westboro while not affecting other kinds of speech. Fortunately, Phelps made it easy on them, suggesting that wounded soldiers shouldn’t have a cause of action if they’re being protested against by a group similar to hers. At that point, the justices jumped on her. It’ll still be a number of months before we know how this one plays out, guys. source (via)