Thursday, March 3, 2011

Snyder v. Phelps at the Supreme Court

I am sure I am letting my emotions get in the way when I ask, "If this is right, why does it feel so wrong?" I wrote last April (Three Cheers for Justice Alito) about a Supreme Court decision that I disagreed with, and talked about how, to my surprise, Justice Samuel Alito cast the one dissenting vote. Now, with the Snyder v. Phelps 8 -1 ruling, once again I am uneasy with the higest court's decision. Yet I also find some small consolation - this time that at least one justice argued that hateful incendiary speech should not find protection under the right to free speech - and once again surprised that my ally is Justice Alito.

I know many legal minds will be able to show how, undesirable as the Westboro Baptist Church's actions are, we must allow it if we are to value freedom of speech. However, I cannot see how showing up at a private funeral with signs that say such things as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Hates Fags" is in any way appropriate. Furthermore, I do not see what such actions taken at military funerals have to do with the group's hateful protests against the gay community. What about the privacy of the grieving family? What about expectations of public decency during times of public mourning?

I found one blogger who took this occasion to celebrate her surprise at agreeing with Justice Alito (much as I did last April). This writer does a fine job presenting the details of the Supreme Court decision and Alito's dissenting opinion. Check it out on the Reaching for the Moon blog here.

Thursday evening addendum: Today I read The New York Times headline article, "Justices Rule for Protesters at Military Funerals," by Adam Liptak. In the interest of getting the whole story, I recommend it. In the short article, Liptak gives a concise summary of the judicial ruling and covers most of the "whys and wherefores." I think that wisdom lies in knowing both what liberty allows and what is appropriate to implement. Wisdom can take Justice Roberts' and Justice Alito's opinions, hold them together and make a healthy choice of action.



  1. Good read -- thanks for the trackback, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.

    One tiny thing: could you change "his" to "her"? Thanks! :)

  2. Changing it now - my apologies, shanshantastic. Thanks for the correction. Glad to find your blog site.


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