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March 8, 2010

Supreme Court to Rule on Westboro Protests

The Supreme Court has decided to rule on a case deciding whether the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church is protected under the First Amendment when they protest at military funerals.

Westboro pastor Fred Phelps leads other members in funeral protests to suggest that military deaths are punishment for the country's tolerance of homosexuality.

The Associated Press reports that justices will hear an appeal from the father of a Marine killed in Iraq, after they picketed outside his son's funeral in Maryland. A signs at the funeral combined the U.S. Marine Corps motto with a slur against gay men, the AP reports. Lyle Denniston has more background on the SCOTUS blog.

In Albert Snyder’s appeal, his lawyers argued that the Supreme Court’s protection of speech about public issues, especially the Justices’ 1988 decision in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, does not apply “to private individuals versus private individuals.” If it does apply, the petition said, “the victimized private individual is left without recourse.” The Circuit Court decision, it added, encourages private individuals to use hyperbolic language to gain constitutional protection “even if that language is targeted at another private individual at a private, religious funeral.”

Even if the Hustler decision does apply to the kind of remarks at issue, the petition asserted, the case also raises the issue of whether those who attend a funeral are like a “captive audience” and thus need protection against intruders who were not invited.

The case will be argued in the fall, according to the AP.

(h/t Debra Cassens Weiss)


I find it troubling that Mr. Phelps seems to have a one item agenda in his church--hatred of homosexuals. Surely there are more important things to be concerned about, such as unemployment, the hungry, the homeless, the destruction in Haiti and in Chile, etc. I think he is an embarrassment to Christianity and I am surprised there is not more criticism of his crusade.

As one who daily faced the Westboro Baptist Church, and its leader Fred Phelps, for three straight years, I know him well. The Phelps cult picketed St. David's Episcopal Church every day, before every service (weddings, funerals, Christmas Eve, Easter Day, etc), and constantly harrassed our parishioners throughout those long months. He is evil, not sick; he embraces with joy the cruelty of his minions. His verbal assults on innocent people, his extremely cruel lies, accusatons, and threats, are a far greater crime than his desecration of the American flag. He distorts the Gospel, subverts the law of the land, and will do whatever malicious tactic he can divise to wouund and hurt others. I know, I faced him face to face for three years. I pray that the Supreme Court will put a stop to his evil.

A good solution to the Phelps phenomenon would be to station a large, robust Marine gunnery sergeant who can holler at 90 decibels at every funeral that Phelps wants to disrupt. He would go over and get in Phelps' face and shout, "NOTHING IN KANSAS BUT STEERS AND QUEERS, AND I DON'T SEE NO HORNS ON YOU! YOU LOOK LIKE A LIMP WRIST TO ME! ARE YOU GETTING TURNED ON RIGHT NOW! ARE YOU GETTING A HARD ON?? I THINK YOU ARE!! WHEN YOU GET WITH YOUR BOYFRIENDS, DO YOU GIVE EACH OTHER A FREE REACHAROUND OR DO YOU CHARGE EXTRA FOR THAT???"
This kind of greeting might make Phelps slink away, if it were done to him in full view of his followers. If he were provoked enough to take a poke at the gunnery sergeant, the latter could shout, "THAT YOUR BEST SHOT?? I THOUGHT YOU WERE A LIMP WRIST!!"
You take down a bully once, and he is not likely to volunteer for any more of the same. If the alpha male of a group is humiliated in the eyes of his followers, he loses status quickly.
Has this been attempted at any of Phelps' appearances? Does anyone happen to know? I had not heard of any such thing in the news, but maybe it ought to happen. Just think of Lee Ermey in "Full Metal Jacket" and you get the idea. No need for courts and lawsuits; just rapid counterforce.

This can only mean SCOTUS will rule against Westboro; otherwise they wouldn't waste their time. It also is a high-publicity chance for them to win back favor after the Citizens United ruling favoring corporate free speech. I can't wait to hear their rationale!

By their fruits they shall be known. Phelps is not a Christian. He does not demonstrate a Christly demeanor in any way. He has no Christian fruit. However,we should not let his behavior lead us into his brand of mean-spiritedness.

How quickly we descend to making the determination that someone is not a Christian.
Mr. Phelps is doing nothing more than carrying out his convictions. I'm sure he will say he's being led by the Holy Spirit to do so and I'm sure he will be able to find any number of passage in the bible to support his views.

He's hardly doing anything different than what Focus on the Family or the American Family Association do... albeit, they are a bit more subtle

Ultimately only God knows Mr. Phelps's heart.

All these people want is publicity. If the news media would quit publicizing these idiots, then they would stop. One day they will protest at someone's funeral and infuriate the wrong person. Then it would be their funeral and probably deservedly so.