Third Party & Independents Archives

What Constitutes Freedom of Speech?

A federal jury in Baltimore, Maryland, recently awarded the father of a deceased Marine who was killed in Iraq nearly $11 million. The defendant in the case was the Westburo Baptist Church, a fundamentalist church from Kansas who protested outside of the Marine’s funeral with signs that read such things as “God hates fags”.

The father sued the church for unspecified damages for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress. The church claims this verdict infringes upon both their freedom of speech and religion, as the protest (and others like it) was aimed at the government's acceptance of homosexuality... hence the "God hates fags" signs.

The main issue here is not some wack-o's protesting of a funeral. Most reasonable people would agree, I think, that "Thank God for dead soldiers" signs have no place outside the funeral of a fallen Marine. No... the main issue here is what, exactly, constitutes freedom of speech?

The constitution guarantees the freedom of speech of American citizens in its first ammendment, but this guarantee is not absolute. It has been written more than oce on this very site that we do not have the freedom to yell 'fire!' in a crowded theatre... well, maybe we have the 'freedom' to do so, but that speech is not protected under the ammendment as the result of yelling such a thing may cause damage to the property and harm to citizens. So, do we have absolute freedom of speech? Now, I am a well documented libertarian, but... I think not. And once we accept that there may be consequences for some of the speech that passes through our lips, it can become quite the slippery slope.

Also, the first ammendment guarantees that no citizen exercising their right to free speech will be criminally prosecuted, it does not guarantee protection from civil suits. In the case highlighted here, the church was sued in civil court and was found liable. Drawing upon the 'fire' example, if yelling such a thing were to cause a citizen to break a leg in the stampede out of the theatre, the citizen yelling 'fire' would likely be held liable in civil court, and rightfully so. So, should the church be held liable for the emotional distress caused by their interruption of a private funeral service?

Another point to think about is what constitutes a 'public event'? In its defense, the church claimed that the funeral was a public event and their freedom of speech should therefore be protected... but is a funeral truly a public event? Or is it a private one held outdoors on private land? The difference is key to the case.

One last thing... was this really worth $11 million? Although I would personally like to see the verdict upheld upon appeal, I must trust in the system to drastically reduce the award.

The Westburo Baptist Church certainly exercised their freedom of speech in protesting the funeral of a fallen Marine... good for them. I'm sure they think they are doing God's work. A jury of their peers found them liable for the damage they caused.

Posted by Doug Langworthy at October 31, 2007 11:55 PM
Comments
Comment #237357
There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or “fighting” words - those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth than any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.

Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire

Some speech is said to be of “low” first amendment value and thus is not afforded full constitutional protection. Also if the plaintiff can demonstrate the funeral was a private affair, the defendants freedom of speech does not supercedes the complainants right to privacy.

Posted by: Cube at November 1, 2007 4:27 AM
Comment #237365

Doug, excellent topic and your treatment of it is spot on. We would not tolerate a political demonstration in an Intensive Care Unit of a hospital where patients were fighting for their lives to recover and heal from major surgery.

A funeral is no less a place of healing for the family and friends of the deceased individual. The Constitution’s 1st Amendment was not written to supersede all other rights like the right to healing without interference from others and some measure of privacy.

It was very astute of you to point to the civil nature of the suit, as opposed to criminal, in this case. Your treatment of this topic was very respectable.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 1, 2007 9:34 AM
Comment #237366

This verdict is just as ridiculous as the one that awarded that dumbass lady for spilling hot coffee in her lap.

Hell, the daily rants by the leftists putting down the country I love causes me “emotional distress,” could I sue rosie, robbins, moore, clinton, murtha, oboreman, stewart etc… and become an instant millionaire too?

Posted by: kctim at November 1, 2007 9:49 AM
Comment #237367
if the plaintiff can demonstrate the funeral was a private affair, the defendants freedom of speech does not supercedes the complainants right to privacy.

Bush maintains that the returns of military coffins on military flights is “private” and can’t be shown on TV nor photographed…why would a funeral be less “private”???

Posted by: Rachel at November 1, 2007 9:58 AM
Comment #237368

kctim said: “Hell, the daily rants by the leftists putting down the country I love causes me “emotional distress,”

But, you can elect to tune them out. They aren’t permitted into your home to issue forth their rants at you, now are they? There are certain times and places where people have a right to privacy, a private funeral has been decided to be one of those places and times. And appropriately so.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 1, 2007 10:20 AM
Comment #237370

Kctim:

So, it’s okay, in the name of free speech, for anyone to denigrate the funeral of someone who fought and died for this country you love? To disrespect that soldier and his family and friends?

Okay.

Go ahead and sue all those whose speech you don’t like on TV and radio if you can’t be bothered to turn it off. The people at the funeral of this war hero can’t turn it off.

Posted by: womanmarine at November 1, 2007 10:31 AM
Comment #237373

David, Phelps is not allowed in this fathers home either nor were they on cemetary grounds. They were on public property voicing their opinion. If you remember, sheehan did the same thing to Bush not too long ago in Crawford. But because of the “God Hates Fags” message, sheehan is considered a hero and Phelps a religious nut.

IF Phelps broke the law, then fine or charge his group appropriately.
Punishing somebody for voicing their opinion is wrong and taking all that they have in order to silence them is too.

Womanmarine
No, its not okay for them to do that, but as long as no laws are broken, its their right to do so if they wish. Or at least it used to be.

But, you know, back before people relied on govt to take care of them and protect their feelings, back when people took pride in being an American, this kind of disrespect would not have been tolerated. Phelps and is crappy group would have had the holy crap beat out of them and they would then think twice about stirring the pot.

Luckily, I feel as if I am responsible enough to take care of myself, so I don’t believe govt should control what I watch on television. I turn the leftist propaganda machine off when I have had enough.

And, this soldiers family could have easily turned Phelps and his group off too, but in todays US, where personal respect and the right to defend oneself is frowned upon, they would have been arrested.

Posted by: kctim at November 1, 2007 11:11 AM
Comment #237375

Oh, yes, that’s the ticket. Beat the crap out of them. Good answer.

Posted by: womanmarine at November 1, 2007 11:33 AM
Comment #237376

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Beat the crap out of them and turn the war hero’s funeral into a free-for-all brawl. That’ll teach em.

Posted by: womanmarine at November 1, 2007 11:34 AM
Comment #237378

kctim

“But, you know, back before people relied on govt to take care of them and protect their feelings, back when people took pride in being an American, this kind of disrespect would not have been tolerated. Phelps and is crappy group would have had the holy crap beat out of them and they would then think twice about stirring the pot.”


i agree. had that fallen marine been a member of my family. thats probably what would have happened, but you have to give credit to the father for not allowing the emotion to create complete chaos at his sons funeral.

while i agree that freedom of speech should absolutely be protected. i also believe that we are responsible for the resulting consequences of that speech. in this case one could say this incident could have incited a riot, because of the confrontation that could’ve occurred between the mourners and the protestors.

you also need to consider what would have happened had the mourners done, IMO what they rightfully should have done to those protestors. they would have been arrested for assault and battery, and the protestors would actually been guilty of inciting a riot.

where do we draw the line? not always IMO an easy question to answer.

Posted by: dbs at November 1, 2007 11:40 AM
Comment #237379


IMO, what these people were doing could be compared to protesters spitting on the troops during the Vietnam war. I am anti-war but, If anti-war protesters were protesting at funerals of fallen soldiers, I would want them prosecuted as well. If you want attention for your cause, protest in front of government offices or right in front of NBC News. Soldiers follow orders. Governments issue orders and make policies.

Posted by: jlw at November 1, 2007 11:48 AM
Comment #237381

jlw

exactly. these people had every right to protest the war. they did not however have the right to interupt this mans final moments with his son as he layed him to rest, in a private ceremony with his family and friends.

Posted by: dbs at November 1, 2007 11:54 AM
Comment #237382

Well, for some of us, sitting back, doing nothing and waiting for govt to take care of everything for us, is not the solution to all of lifes problems.

Of course, what else should one expect in a country where its more important to take away a persons ability to defend themselves than it is to punish those who do harm to others.

Posted by: kctim at November 1, 2007 11:59 AM
Comment #237385

kctim


“Well, for some of us, sitting back, doing nothing and waiting for govt to take care of everything for us, is not the solution to all of lifes problems.”

“Of course, what else should one expect in a country where its more important to take away a persons ability to defend themselves than it is to punish those who do harm to others.”

50 years ago, they would have beaten the crap out of those protestors. the authorities would have said ” oh well they got what they had comming” and that would have been the end of it.

unfortunately in todays world, the flood of trial lawyers would have turned this situation on its ear, and the mouners would’ve been prosecuted.

common sense and reasonable people seem to be harder and harder to come by these days.

Posted by: dbs at November 1, 2007 12:11 PM
Comment #237386

Very true DBS, but its not PC to think like that anymore.
And make no mistake, the people cheering this judgment don’t give a rats ass about “freedom of speech.” It is the content, “God hates fags,” that matters to them, which is why they feel it is ok to have him silenced in any way possible.

Posted by: kctim at November 1, 2007 12:47 PM
Comment #237390

Kctim:

Bullshit. And I thank God that we have hopefully gotten away from being able to beat the crap out of somebody if we don’t like what they say.

It has nothing to do with what they were saying, it is all to do with trying to disrupt a war hero’s funeral and incite violence.

I firmly believe that you should be able to say pretty much what you want, and getting the crap beat out of you for saying it is thankfully against the law.

It should also be against the law to protest at ANY funeral. That soldier had nothing to do with what they were protesting about. And even if he had, there are some things that should be out of reach of this kind of protest, funerals being one of them.

Posted by: womanmarine at November 1, 2007 1:26 PM
Comment #237393

This is a major reason that The Patriot Guard was founded, and has grown monumentally in strength since then. Incredible organization….take some time to read about them…they have a website.

Posted by: Kiddo at November 1, 2007 2:01 PM
Comment #237394

Doug, excellent article.
kctim, My initial urge would have been to attack the Phelps were it my sons funeral. However after some thought I believe the father did the right thing.
Suppose the Phelps decided to have a security force on hand that would be able to repel the “whooping” you believe should had been administered by the father of the slain marine and others attending the funeral. This could have lead to an escalation of force and perhaps to deaths on both sides. With this in mind the might makes right philosophy you seem to think should be the way things are done in this country pales when compared to the limitation put on free speech in this instance. As we can no longer expect common decency to stop people from acting like the Phelps then we must resort to government protection or anarchy. The father did the right thing and justice prevailed. Hopefully he can collect from the Phelps and who knows maybe the Phelps have learned a thing or two about respect and decency.

As for your comment about the McDonalds lawsuit do you know that after 700 cases of burning people with their coffee and refusing to lower the temperature they had to pay 2 days of coffee profits? They were 80 percent at fault? the lady suffered 3rd degree burns and had to get skin grafts? The lady initially asked for McDonalds to cover her medical expenses and they refused laeding to the lawsuit? Perhaps when all the facts are known the lawsuit isnt so ridiculous afterall. Same can be said for this lawsuit.

Posted by: j2t2 at November 1, 2007 2:02 PM
Comment #237395

Womanmarine
Doing it because you don’t like what they say is ALOT different than doing it if they are disrespecting you or the ones you love.
Phelps could have easily stayed in KS and said what he wanted and this family would not have been signaled out and used in order to make Phelps’ statement. Instead, Phelps invaded their lives to make his statement and they should have been able to make their statement back without fear of jail.

It has ALL to do with what they are saying. How many “news” stories have you heard of somebody picketing outside a cemetary or along the funeral route, with signs that say “No blood for oil” or “Your son died for nothing?” They too exist, but since they are not “right wing loons” they don’t get the national publicity.

I too firmly believe you should be able to say what you want, BUT, I also believe you are responsible for what you say.

Posted by: kctim at November 1, 2007 2:07 PM
Comment #237396

j2
Only the father knows if he did the right thing or not. I am not saying he is less of a man for doing nothing and I am not trying to pass judgment on him. In fact, I would be willing to bet that he stood there dreaming of walking over there and shoving those signs up you know where.
I was not trying to say what I thought the father should have done, but rather why, IMO, criminals, pedos and people like Phelps feel so free to do whatever they want. They no longer fear what their actions may bring about and they feel todays “laws,” favor them.

Refusing to sit and wait for some govt agency to take care of me, does not make me a victim and it does not mean I believe in “might makes right.”

“As we can no longer expect common decency to stop people from acting like the Phelps then we must resort to government protection or anarchy”

Do you really believe govt protection and anarchy are your only two viable options?
There have always been people such as Phelps. It is not their lack of “common decency” which allows them to do what they do, it is their lack of fear and their belief that the “law” will protect them over the victim.

Yes, I have read up on the McD’s coffee lawsuits, so please don’t think I am uninformed because I call it ridiculous.
Tons of coffee sold with satisfied customers but McD’s should have lowered the temp in order to please a few who are too stupid to know that hot things can cause burns if you aren’t careful or don’t wait for it to cool down?

Hot coffee + collapsable cup + press on plastic lid with hole in it = BE CAREFUL OR YOU MAY GET BURNED!!!

Busy road + cars speeding + dark skies = BE CAREFUL OR YOU MAY GET HIT BY A CAR!!!

These dumbasses are why we pay so much for insurance and why our electrical appliances have stickers saying not to bathe with them.

Posted by: kctim at November 1, 2007 2:54 PM
Comment #237397

Kctim:

I still am against your inference that it would be okay, and should be okay to take matters into your own hands with violence. I am totally against that.

And you’re right, I haven’t seen these other things. Perhaps they should also be sued, then they would get the attention. I think what Phelps and his crew does is dispicable, and I think the others you mentioned are too. I am one of the ones against this war but those pickets and demonstrations go totally against my grain. It is cruel, heartless and stupid to ever say any of the heros who died in this war died for nothing. No matter how against the war I am, I would never say that, and I would talk down anyone who did.

I also firmly believe it is right that it is against the law to lay your hands on another person. I won’t ever advocate that kind of lawlessness, which lowers the perpetrator to a standard lower than the demonstrators. That’s what we have laws and courts for.

Self defense is only applicable if they commit violence against you, not demonstrations or words.

Posted by: womanmarine at November 1, 2007 2:57 PM
Comment #237399

“lowers the perpetrator to a standard lower than the demonstrators”

Thanks Womanmarine. That belief is a perfect explanation of why everybody just sits around and allow themselves to be victims. How sticking up for yourself, your family or your country somehow makes you worse than those who wish to do you harm.
If you kill the guy who raped and killed your kid, you are worse than him.
If you punch the ass, who makes a mockery of your son’s death, in the nose, you are worse than him.
If you waterboard the people who cut off US soldiers heads, you are worse than them.
If you stand up to a bully in school, rather than scurry away and ask for help, you are worse than the bully.

The only thing worse than violence, is being defenseless to stop it.

“Self defense is only applicable if they commit violence against you, not demonstrations or words”

I totally agree with you. But then, I’m not saying people should just go around picking fights everytime someone says something they dont like, am I.
Nope.
I’m saying that those who are confronted or verbally assaulted, should not always be made out to be the agressors while those who started it all are made out to be the victims.
Not in the eyes of the people and not in the eyes of the law.

Posted by: kctim at November 1, 2007 3:36 PM
Comment #237400

kctim… funny, we usually agree on things, but I must differ with you here. You said:

And make no mistake, the people cheering this judgment don’t give a rats ass about “freedom of speech.” It is the content, “God hates fags,” that matters to them, which is why they feel it is ok to have him silenced in any way possible.

That is a broad generalization that I do not believe is true… in fact I know it to not be true because I care very deeply about our freedom of speech.

I could, in fact, make the counter argument that anyone jeering this judgment doesn’t give a rat’s ass about freedom of speech but rather hates ‘fags’… since you are jeering this judgment you obviously hate ‘fags’… right?

Disagree with the judgment and the jist of the article… that’s great, and you seem to be the only one truly doing so and I genuinely appreciate that… but please do not lump me personally into a group of people that care more about ‘fags’ than about freedom of speech… We have never met, so there is no way you could possibly know that about me.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at November 1, 2007 4:30 PM
Comment #237402

I have one question.

I’ve seen someone say that the protesting took place on public grounds. Did it really? A cemetary is not public grounds, it is still private property (or should be) and if someone was protesting on private property they could be ordered to leave without it being a violation of their rights.

Why were they not ordered to leave by the cemetary’s owner? If they refused, the police would have/should have removed them from the premises, all the while not infringing on their rights to free speech as they are on someone else’s private property and no one is afforded the right to say what they want on someone else’s property…

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 1, 2007 4:46 PM
Comment #237403
Their attorneys maintained in closing arguments Tuesday that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion.

This is complete bunk, and as a result I believe that they should have been forcibly removed, and it would have been within the law enforcement’s rights to do so.

However, because the owners of the property did not order them to leave or have them removed by police, I’m not sure what the legalities of the civil suit would mean to the renters of the property at the time of the protest, do they have standing or does it have to come from the property owners?

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 1, 2007 4:51 PM
Comment #237404

Kctim,

You know that I’m as big of a libertarian as their comes (heck, I’ve run as one in the past and will again soon — perhaps 2008?) and this really comes down to an issue of private property rights more than free speech, IMO.

The protesters have every right to say what they want, however that doesn’t guarantee that they can say it wherever they want, an individual’s right to private property can have anyone removed from their private property for any reason, including ‘saying something that they don’t like’. If someone was invited into my home during an ‘open house’ and then called me a ‘stupid fag’, I would ask him to leave, and if he did not he would be removed forcibly. And that is no different than here.

I’m not sure where the church gets off thinking that ‘funerals are public events’ but I’m fairly confident that that argument won’t hold up with the Supreme Court, otherwise I’d suggest protesting their church every day with things like ‘God hates bigots’ and ‘3 of a kind, Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, God’. After all, a church service is a ‘public event’ isn’t it? I’m sure they would love having the shoe on the other foot…

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 1, 2007 4:57 PM
Comment #237406

If it was harassment, and there is a pattern/history of harassment by this group, it is illegal harassment.

Free speech is one thing, but when some one or some group targets a specific person or group wiht hate speech, and also has a history/pattern of doing it, it is harassment. Targeting the survivors of fallen soldiers, with insults and despicable statements that clearly target fallen soldiers is definitely hate speech.

    ha·rass

    TRANSITIVE VERB:
    ha·rassed , ha·rass·ing , ha·rass·es
    To irritate or torment persistently.
    To wear out; exhaust.
    To impede and exhaust (an enemy) by repeated attacks or raids.

Categories of harassment:

  • Legal harassment - Legal actions against an individual or a group, for example SLAPP suits.

  • Sexual harassment (with a much stricter definition in the workplace)

  • Psychological harassment - repetitive unprovoked intrusions or interruptions

  • Group psychological harassment

  • Hate speech - comments proveably false or irrelevant which express or encourage hate towards a particular legal group
  • NOTE the word “false”. Are the signs and statements by the Westburo Baptist Church “true”?

    So, yes. The law suit and verdict was justified.
    Was the size of the judgement fair?
    That can depend on the ability to pay, and/or likeliness to punish.
    The $11 million was probably an amount based on the Westburo Baptist Church’s ability to pay, and what would be required to have any impact as a punishment. If the judgement was small, the Westburo Baptist Church may continue their harassment of others. For example, an $11 million dollar fine for Walmart is nothing, and wouldn’t discourage Walmart from repeating the crime.

    Posted by: d.a.n at November 1, 2007 5:18 PM
    Comment #237407

    Doug, granted, broad generalization on my part. I should have said “most people.”

    Your “counter argument” would be valid IF, I supported Phelps’ right to do this but did not support the right of anothers free speech.
    And, if anybody was to look, they would see that I am a strong supporter of gay rights and Phelps message pisses me off to no end, but that doesn’t mean I believe my personal feelings should trump his rights.
    I believe in freedom of speech for all, not just for those who I agree with.

    I know that goes against how our country is run today, especially from the leftists, but that is how our country was intended to be.
    Free.

    Posted by: kctim at November 1, 2007 5:26 PM
    Comment #237410

    kctim… I absolutely agree… and that is why the church should not and can not be criminally prosecuted. A civil suit is another matter altogether, IMHO…

    Whether we like it or not, there are, indeed, some limitations upon free speech. Slander, for example, is a well-documented example of where we are not free to say what we want without repercussions, and once we accept this fact we have to come to a point where we agree that the freedom of speech is not as absolute as it is often thought of…

    This case, IMHO, is not one of speech simply offending someone… if that were the case I would be right with you. But, this speech interrupted a private function. The church also protested, with the same signs, outside of the courthouse in Baltimore… good for them! (The morons) That is the way to exercise your freedom of speech.

    BTW… I am fully on board with your McD’s example… I actually happen to work in the coffee industry and I can tell you that, to get the maximum flavor from the beans, you should brew at 195 degrees F… guess what, folks… that’s hot… it’s gonna burn ya! Be careful…

    Posted by: Doug Langworthy at November 1, 2007 5:48 PM
    Comment #237411

    Also… my counter-argument was not real… it was only intended to make the point that over-generalizations are not valid arguments.

    Posted by: Doug Langworthy at November 1, 2007 5:49 PM
    Comment #237414

    There was:

  • slander, bullying

  • hate speech harassment

  • religious intolerance/persecution

  • and probably an invasion of privacy

  • and a pattern of harassment of this type
  • Don’t underestimate the potential for those things, if allowed, to ruin lives.
    Consider sexual harassment in the work place.
    If those things are allowed, look out. People will start seeking their own kind of justice. Then who should be punished?

    Posted by: d.a.n at November 1, 2007 6:02 PM
    Comment #237415

    Rhinehold, good question on the renter vs. owner. My guess is the law protects one’s rights within one’s domecile, whether it be owned or rented.

    May be more a case of privacy rights than property.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at November 1, 2007 6:19 PM
    Comment #237417

    “Refusing to sit and wait for some govt agency to take care of me, does not make me a victim and it does not mean I believe in “might makes right.””

    kc, and neither does waiting for a government agency make you a victim. If its not “might makes right” then what is it? If the laws were changed to allow for each of us to subdue the person or persons who offended us where would it lead? The bigger gun theory of law and order? Who gets to take action against whom and for what reasons? Would this family had reacted against Phelps and his followers with violence then next it would be Bush punching out Sheehan in Crawford for exercising her first amendment rights, then me or you taking justice into our own hands when insulted. That to me is anarchy. Im not disagreeing that it would have been nice to see Phelps getting his due for these reprehensible actions as they occured, but we need some sembalance of order or society breaks down. When I first heard the Phelps were planning to do this I was hoping a group of masked men armed with baseball bats would serve up some justice to them. However my vigilante justice is wrong, even if it makes me feel good, as it leads to nothing good for society as a whole.

    “They no longer fear what their actions may bring about and they feel todays “laws,” favor them.”

    Seems they will be fighting to keep from having to pay this judgement against them for some time to come. I dont see how the laws favor them as they abused their rights and justice was served.

    “It is not their lack of “common decency” which allows them to do what they do, it is their lack of fear and their belief that the “law” will protect them over the victim.”

    kc, Im all for lack of fear, and for first amendment rights but the law has stood the test here and the family the Phelps attempted to victimize, using our system of justice has prevailed. The Phelps overstepped the boundries of the first amendment and were penalized for it.

    Posted by: j2t2 at November 1, 2007 6:23 PM
    Comment #237434

    How would the same standard apply to say, the Code Pink activists protesting the war at privately- sponsored speeches and events?

    Did these church members, as reprehensible as their actions and ideas are, physically go into the funeral itself and “interrupt it” as some are alleging, or were they merely protesting a private event from nearby, on a public street? I haven’t been able to find a clear description of what actually happened.

    It they were merely NEAR a private event, then what about anyone—like Cindy Sheehan or Max Cleland, who wanted to protest against the war outside the Bush ranch? Can Bush sue them for monetary damages by claiming that their presence caused him emotional stress?

    What about protestors outside of abortion clinics? Aren’t abortion clinics private property? What if the NAACP wants to protest outside the headquarters of the KKK?

    I do think this a dangerous road to start down because this church seems to have been singled out because the CONTENT of their views is reprehensible to almost everybody. But that is exactly what the First Amendment is supposed to protect.

    Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 2, 2007 12:40 AM
    Comment #237445

    Rhinehold
    “this really comes down to an issue of private property rights more than free speech”

    If that is the case, then Phelps should have been charged with some infraction or whatever. From what I have seen and heard, they were outside the gates on public property and the local police even re-routed their route on the way there so as to avoid the protestors.

    J2
    Using common sense before coming to a judgement will not bring on anarchy. A judge ruling that Phelps’ actions were the cause of a soldiers father getting into a fight with Phelps, case dismissed, will not bring on anarchy.
    You know, your fear in all these “what if” scenarios you create sounds alot like all the “what if” scenarios we hear about terrorists.

    LO
    Well said my friend. And since they can not Constitutionally silence the groups sick message, they are trying to bankrupt them into silence. Dangerous road indeed.

    Posted by: kctim at November 2, 2007 9:43 AM
    Comment #237455

    that sad part of this whole deal is, no matter how this comes out, these assholes destroyed what should have been a fathers final moments with his fallen son. to say goodbye, and pay his final respects. this can never be undone, and should never be allowed to happen to anyone again. there are certain lines you just don’t cross, and this is with out a doubt one of them.

    Posted by: dbs at November 2, 2007 11:40 AM
    Comment #237462

    “You know, your fear in all these “what if” scenarios you create sounds alot like all the “what if” scenarios we hear about terrorists.”

    kc, I dont know what you are implying here, but, If I were in the position that father found himself in I dont know that I would want to upset the dignity of the funeral process by fighting with the likes of the Phelps. Perhaps your common sense says to fight but it would seem to me that you would win the battle but lose the war. The slain marines father lost the battle but won the war. My hats off to him.

    Posted by: j2t2 at November 2, 2007 12:34 PM
    Comment #237474

    J2
    In all your posts here, you seem to fear anarchy arising if we don’t have strict govt control telling us how to believe and live. As if its ok to take away rights because of what you “fear” may happen if govt does not.
    Sounds alot like “if you don’t give up these rights, the terrorists will get you” that we hear. IMO.

    And, as I said before, I do not question, belittle or condemn the actions of this father. His son gave the ultimate sacrafice for his country and BOTH of their choices should be respected.
    But, IF he had chosen to not take the high road, I don’t believe he should have had been punished the way he would have been.

    Posted by: kctim at November 2, 2007 1:13 PM
    Comment #237479

    kc, “In all your posts here, you seem to fear anarchy arising if we don’t have strict govt control telling us how to believe and live. As if its ok to take away rights because of what you “fear” may happen if govt does not.
    Sounds alot like “if you don’t give up these rights, the terrorists will get you” that we hear. IMO.”

    Its not that I live in fear of anarchy or want to promote strict government control. Nor do I think government should tell us what to beleive and how to live. And the last, the very last thing I am trying to convey is a “if you don’t give up these rights, the terrorists will get you” mentality.
    In tough cases like this with the Phelps and their first amendment rights possibly being violated I tend to favor personal responsibility as opposed to government interference. I beleive that not only do we in this Country have rights we have responsibilities. IMHO the Phelps overstepped the bounds of good taste (which is their right)as well as free speech rights and they abdicated this responsibility. Others in this thread, especially Cube in the first comment on this thread, have done a fine job of explaining the limits to our free speech rights. I beleive these limits to be a fair approach to dealing with the different issues yet keeping all of us as free as possible. I dont believe this is government interference but instead its good government.
    If you are advocating that there should be no clarification to the wording of the constitution and we as individuals should be allowed to yell fire in a crowd and then duke it out to see who is right well I would say while you may think we are more free with this approach I would say we are less free.

    “But, IF he had chosen to not take the high road, I don’t believe he should have had been punished the way he would have been.”

    I agree kc, and were I ever to be on a jury in a matter such as this I would have found him guilty of nothing but common sense. I would have considered it a bittersweet victory however as the way things have turned out, for the time being, puts the Phelps in the hot seat for their actions not the other way around. This is why I think we have a system of government that actually works once in a while.


    Posted by: j2t2 at November 2, 2007 3:15 PM
    Comment #237482

    Ok J2, thanks for the explanation.
    Yelling fire in a crowd doesn’t relate to this though. Those type of limitations are put in place to prevent panic or hysteria which could lead to numerous amounts of people being harmed.

    My biggest concern with these types of ruling is “where do they stop?”
    If code pink, sheehan, moveon etc… pick a public street or corner and protest saying my son died for nothing or that he is a murderer, can I claim emotional distress and expect to become a millionaire? They have more organization and money than shithead phelps, does that mean I can expect more?
    As nutty and ridiculous pink, sheehan and moveon are, I don’t believe they should be silenced or made unable to express their views in public and in a lawful way.

    I don’t mean to seem hardheaded about this J2, but if we are going to have free speech, it has to be for everyone, not just those who have a large following. No matter how distasteful that view may be.

    Posted by: kctim at November 2, 2007 3:36 PM
    Comment #237486

    kc, I would agree that all of us need to protect free speech for all of us not just the majority and or the popular. Its a tough issue and will Im sure will continue to be fought for years to come. Hopefully we err on the side of free speech. However I find it hard to think bribing politicians with money is free speech. Thats a different topic though.

    Posted by: j2t2 at November 2, 2007 4:22 PM
    Comment #237499

    You have to wonder why they only demostrated at military funerals and not funerals of everyday citizens of Kansas.

    I hope the appeal is thrown out and wish the amount was twice as much.

    Maybe what needs to be done is find out who was at these demostrations, and when one of their family members die, to demostrate, and say it is God’s will, because they were such a**holes to service members who were protecting their freedom of speech.

    Posted by: KT at November 2, 2007 8:15 PM
    Comment #237530

    As a minister, Westburo Church’s actions were appalling. This Church and their Pastor should be DISIPLINED

    Posted by: KAP at November 3, 2007 8:56 AM
    Comment #237537

    I remember telling my Marines not to beat up the protestors in San Diego.

    This case is a good thing. Freedom of Speech is not protected on Private Property. The First Amendment only applies to what the .gov can/cannot do.

    The Rev & Co. were on Private Property if I rememebr correctly. They were interfering with a private event as well.

    I hope the award is upheld and the church is bankrupted.

    BTW, someone needs to read the case on the Mickey D’s coffee. Second and Third Degree burns are worthy of a suit I’d say.

    Posted by: Phil Gwinn at November 3, 2007 11:51 AM
    Comment #237596

    kctim,

    You seem to be saying the church group’s freedom of speech is being picked on simply because of their message. I think the judgment in civil court was appropriate because of where these people decided to speak out, not because of what they said. If they wanted to have a parade down Main Street I would support their right to do so (so might the ACLU) but intruding on a private event, a funeral no less, with messages meant to be so provocative as to cause hurt has been decided here to be a line not to be crossed. It is harassment and to see resorting to violence as the best way to handle such a situation is myopic and would just cause further problems.

    This group’s despicable provocations may grab the sensational headlines (just what the group wants) but that wasn’t what was judged in this case. I understand very well what this group is trying to say, beyond the provocative messages, and although abhorent I would defend anyone’s right to use provocative speech. However, I have to agree with D.A.N. that harassment has its limits.

    Posted by: chris2x at November 4, 2007 1:44 PM
    Comment #237624

    Chris2x, you hit the nail on the head. The point of the Phelps church protesting was publicity, not the expression of an opinion. They chose to do the most inflammatory thing that they could in hope that the press coverage would draw attention and, hopefully, new followers. They also hope to ride this case all the way to the Supreme Court in hope of getting some kind of anti-homosexual ruling out of the Court. This is not free speech, this is a publicity stunt.

    Let’s also remember the point of view that this “church” is espousing: that the deaths of soldiers in Iraq is God’s way of punishing America for condoning homosexuality. That anyone would use the death of a soldier to promote this kind of hateful belief system is amazing to me. While they are welcome to believe whatever they want, using the pain of others to promote their beliefs, or any beliefs for that matter, is not free speech, it is opportunism.

    L

    Posted by: leatherankh at November 5, 2007 9:57 AM
    Comment #237627

    Chris and leather
    ALL demostrations are publicity stunts to garner attention to a cause.
    To me, burning the flag is dispicable. Should someone be allowed to burn the flag on main street but not on a public street near a cemetary?

    You guys are allowing emotions to dictate right and wrong and that is not how the rights given to us were meant to work.
    Quit concentrating on this tiny groups stupid message and focus on what could become of such a ruling.
    Do we really want special govt enforced “free speech” zones set up where they would be virtually invisible?

    Phil
    “BTW, someone needs to read the case on the Mickey D’s coffee. Second and Third Degree burns are worthy of a suit I’d say”

    Ones stupidity and carelessness is not though.
    Should I sue Black and Decker for making their hammers too hard? I’ve got a black and blue thumb that hurts like hell.

    Posted by: kctim at November 5, 2007 10:30 AM
    Comment #239343

    testing…

    Posted by: Test at November 27, 2007 12:52 AM
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