free speech

Supreme Court Will Decide Westboro Baptist’s Right to Protest Military Funerals And Say Terrible Things

We all know about Westboro Boring’s protest signs, like “God Hates Fags,” “Priests Rape Boys,” and “God Hates America.” Then there’s the “Thank God for dead soldiers” signs, which they held up in 2006 at the Maryland funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder while his family buried him. Snyder’s father Albert sued Fred Phelps & Co., won an $11 million verdict, saw it reduced to $5 million by the judge, and then saw the ruling thrown out on appeal. Now, the case will be heard by the Supreme Court, which today agreed to rule on a contentious First Amendment case. Should “imaginative and hyperbolic rhetoric” be protected at all costs, even when dealing with the dignity of a fallen soldier? The justices will decide, but we already know where we stand:


These people are vile human beings. They are also well within their right to call us faggots and wish ill upon a dead soldier’s family. If they don’t incite violence, and do not violate obscenity provisions, it’s really as simple as that.

The scene outside the Supreme Court this fall is going to be just lovely.

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  • romeo

    Amazed that the supremes decided to take this. I’m sure they will protect Westboro’s right to be assholes. If they don’t, Murdoch is screwed. LOL Westboro does more to HELP us than hurt us. As for the soldiers, though, I think if they keep that up they’re courting suicide. LOL

  • terrwill

    @romeo: I can not figure out why someone at one of these funerals hasn’t snapped yet and taken out the whole lot of those inbred subhuman savage scumbags……..

  • ewe

    I remember this putrid filth picketing gay funerals and gay parades decades ago in San Francisco. Never once did our government ban them from doing so. I give no more credence to a dead soldier in a volunteer military than i do to my long gone friends and acquaintances. Good for the goose is good for the gander. Military personnel should not have rights that supersede the private citizenry.

  • terrwill

    PS: To a certain little witch, we know you check out the fag blogs who post threads about you. Did you know your Grandfather fcuked your Mother to produce you?????

  • stephen

    what about their constitutional right to privacy?
    these people are using their freedom of speech to infringe upon other peoples’ civil liberties

    based on precedence, i’m guessing the court is going to rule against the westboros

  • Joe K


    Free speach is free speach. if we wanted to protest an ultra conservative funeral or westboro, why should we be denied that right? It is the same thing.

    However, where they may loose is that anything other then a national cementery is private property. There is some precidence with abortion clinics and the distance they must maintain.

    Unfortunitly free speech is free speech, good bad or otherwise.

  • DR


    There have been groups to protect the families at the services. Bikers and vets have banded together to either drown out the protesters with motorcycles or, more frequently, act as “silent witnesses” to keep the Phelps clans at bay and far away.

  • trent

    I hope they win… I’m to adamant about free speech. Just remember if you take away there’s they could also take away ours. NO PRIDE PARADES!!! All that good deal. Free speech trumps everything in my book.

  • terrwill

    @DR: Yes, I remember seeing a segment on those guys, I believe rightfully so their name is something “Angels”. Maybe its wishfull thinking on my part, but I was thinking that a grieving relative simply snaps at sight of these scumbags and takes them out with an F150 or firearm……….

  • ewe

    @DR: I find that very interesting. I still do not understand why people are insinuating that a soldier or a cop or a judge or any other public person somehow is deserving of more than a private citizen they are paid by. Them those are the breaks folks. Gay people have been demonized by these animals for decades. Not a word from the attorneys and certainly nothing that went to court at this level. I find them to be disgraceful but government intrusion may prove to be fatal for us.

  • Fitz

    Just remember this story next time you get a request for cash from the ACLU.. because they are working their little assess off to insist that Phelps has a right to do this shit.

  • mike

    this is wonderful. I love when WBC gets media attention, because it provides social pressure for people to be less homophobic because they don’t want to be associated with the crazies.

  • Steve

    Any decent, respectful person would let the family bury their dead, without interruption or protest. But the right to speech is not about being decent or respectful.

    Even though the hateful, vicious person has the right to speak, everyone else has a right not to listen. And, everyone has the right to perform their own religious ceremonies without being disrupted.

    We have laws against disrupting religious ceremonies, specifically to protect the freedom of religion and freedom of speech of the people who are participating in those ceremonies. A funeral is one such ceremony.

    There has to be a balance between the freedom of speech of the protesters, and the freedom of religion and speech of the people who just want to bury their dead.

    This case will be interesting. I expect the court will rule that the bigots have a right to protest, but that they may not force other people to listen, and that the protesting must not interfere with the religious ceremony or free speech of the other people.

  • ewe

    @Fitz: well they are right to do that.

  • terrwill

    I have tried in vain to ask that posts about these scumbags not appear. They are simply media whores. They garner tremendous attention for their vile antics. Their “demonstrations” sometimes amount to 4 or 5 inbred freaks and they recieve the same publicity as if there were 1000 of them. If everyone simply ignored them, like a child demanding attention they would simply go away. And unfortunately I have to support their right to display their particular brand of madness. Because if the SCOUS were to deny them, there would be precedent set for denying other forms of free speech. Thankfully there are groups who organize counter demonstrations to drown them out.

    In the end though, the supreme joke will be on them. When they go to meet their maker, all the innocent AIDS victims and fallen soldiers whos families were tortured by these subhuman savage scumbags will be standing at the gates of Heaven . And in unison they will tell them how wretched their lives have been. And their hateful,vile lives have banished them to the flames of hell to suffer for eternity…….

  • Steve

    @terrwill wrote: “Their ‘demonstrations’ sometimes amount to 4 or 5 inbred freaks and they recieve the same publicity as if there were 1000 of them.”

    There used to be a common saying on the usenet groups, “Please, do not feed the trolls.” It’s too bad the media (TV and newspaper types) do not understand that concept. The handful of inbred freaks would probably just go away, if they did not receive free publicity from their stunts.

  • nycer

    @@Fitz: That is precisely why I will give to the ACLU next time they come calling. This time its phelps, next time it will be us.

  • jasonut29

    I’m sorry but NO they do not have a right to slander fallen soldiers as part of a demonstration against our government! I do not believe the it was the intent of free speech to allow people to lie and cause fear of people or the government. It was the intent to prohibit the fear of speaking out against our government. Telling families that their family members died because of gays in the US and the US policy towards gays is NOT and should not be protected by free speech. The penalties should stand because harm is being done each time this happens and fucking phelps should pay dearly in money just as he will when he is rotting in hell for his actions and lies of God!!! Sorry Fitz..I will not demonstrate and lie for us or anyone else…..facts are facts….lies are lies….hate is hate and they do not have a right to tell lies about me or my life style to try to cause fear for other people…..this was NOT the intent of our forefathers! I am seriously considering filing a lawsuit against the next organization that slanders my character because I am gay.

  • Ankhorite

    There might be a few things on this thread which need clarification.

    1. The laws in Canada about free speech are not NEARLY so liberal as the laws in the U.S.

    2. No one is saying that soldiers’ families deserve more protection from unpleasant speech than anyone else. The focus on those families is merely because soldiers’ families are foremost among the victims Westboro Baptist has chosen.

    3. The right to privacy for these families does not exist on the sidewalk or on the public streets, or in any other public forum. Families can probably already get restraining orders to keep these morons out of private cemeteries during the graveside service, but a) they usually don’t know Westboro is coming and b) maybe they can’t get a restraining order in a public cemetery, or if the judge decides even a private cemetery is a public forum for certain purposes.

    4. Abortion clinics got limits on how closely protesters may approach via the FACE Act, the Free Access To Clinic Entrances Act. Many people loathe those restrictions, including some currently on the Court. Would Congress pass something similar to the FACE Act for funerals, and would the Court uphold such a law? Please. They’re still fighting about French Fries versus Freedom Fries in the Congressional cafeteria. Something like this is totally beyond them.

    5. @Fitz’s remarks about withholding donations to the ACLU, which he believes is defending Westboro Baptist… I don’t know if they are, but certainly this case is the type the ACLU takes. For which we should all be grateful, because the victories the ACLU wins protecting the Nazis in Skokie or loons like Westboro Baptist are the same victories that protect gay pride and women’s rights marches all over the country. Fitz, the ACLU defends *the principle of free speech,* not the ideology of their clients.

    6. @Steve is right: the Court will balance Westboro Baptist’s free speech rights versus the right of the bereaved families to conduct religious rites without interference.

    I am a member of the Supreme Court bar and have watched them pretty closely during the past twenty years, but with the current court, I don’t dare make a prediction. If it were porn, Thomas would support it; but it’s not porn. The right-wing majority of the Court is going to find themselves torn between their willingness to suppress dissent against Bush’s war, versus their eagerness to give the churches who picket abortion clinics as much free rein as possible. What we have in this case is basically church versus church (though the Snyder family, not their church, is the actual party.) The current Court majority is highly activist and entirely politics-driven. Knowledge of precedent does not give any foreknowledge of what they will do.

  • strumpetwindsock


    Thanks for the clarification on a number of issues.

    One thing about Canada’s criminal hate crimes law is that it is based not on what a person says, but on the intent to incite hatred.

    In one recent case, native leader David Ahenakew was found not guilty, despite saying some horrible things about the holocaust, because the judge found his intention was not to incite hatred.

    So it is not strictly a freedom of speech issue.

    That said, there are more limits to expression here in Canada, both civil and criminal.

    Odd, since the situation is reversed when it comes to copyright limitations. I have never heard of a government up here trying to prevent someone publishing its laws because of a copyright claim.

  • Kieran

    Why are they giving these people legitimacy?

  • strumpetwindsock

    …and government does not have the same access to our online activity, or our private records as the U.S. government does.

  • strumpetwindsock


    Well like it or not they are going to get a rise out of people.
    When they wanted to come up here it was to protest the murder of a poor fellow who had his head cut off by a schizophrenic man on a bus.

    Of course people are going to react when they here some wackos are going to come and picket the funeral.

    It’s sad, but it works and they know it.

  • eagledancer

    I remember attending the Millennium March with my SigO in D.C.—he insisted that when we passed the protesting Phelps we hold hands and skip by.

  • DR

    For those of you thinking that the US SCT will somehow swoop down and re-instate the judgment, you’ll be very disappointed when the opinion affirming the 4th Circuit comes down.

    The USSCT has created a “zone” around abortion clinics. Protesters can hold up their signs and say their peace as long as they do not enter that zone; should they, they become trespassers. The same “zone” applies to WBC. WBC got the permits, stayed well outside the zone…many of the Phelps clan are attorneys who specialize in Con Law and know how to play the game. And what I think may hurt Snyders’ dad.. he didn’t even know about it until after the funeral. WBC stayed so far away no one knew they were there. That means they were playing by the rules.

    @Jasonut29: What was slanderous? Read the opinion. As the 4th Circuit noted, these signs are nothing more than the ramblings of “hysterical protesters”. Was the speech offensive, sure (but no more offensive than a gay person going up to a protester, grabbing her Bible and tearing the pages out of it before throwing it to the ground, which I have seen). “Slander” is a specific term of art, you clearly don’t know the meaning.

    @Fitz: Yes, remember this when the ACLU asks for money. Also remember that the ACLU fights for the right for the LGBT community to protest when people don’t want to hear our message.

    @Ewe: Don’t go there about soldiers or cops or judges. Don’t even think I agree with your venomous reaction to them. Especially as I know many gay-friendly cops who treat me as “one of the guys”, have read opinions by many gay-friendly judges, and know a hell of a lot of gay and gay-friendly vets. Just because we may agree with the ruling does not mean I care for your politics, which I don’t.

  • Chris

    I’m always amazed at how many in the gay community, having gained what moderate acceptance and power we now have, would immediately turn around and deny to others the the very rights that got us where we are.

    It is only because of Constitutional protections like our Freedom of Speech that marginalized groups like the LGBT community, the Black community, even progressives in general have been able to spread our message and help the mainstream to understand us. By rights we should be among the fiercest (no pun intended) defenders of free speech because we have seen how vital it is to the lives of Americans. Instead, so many members of our community want to throw someone in jail for using the word “faggot,” or deny the fundamental right for Americans to protest in defense of their beliefs.

    Let’s be clear: what the WBC does, whether at the grave of a fallen soldier, an AIDS victim, or any other person, is despicable, hateful, and intolerable to any person with any sense of decency. We are right to condemn them. But we cannot, as Americans, deny them the right to access public property to make their voices heard. To do so not only violates the fabric of our nation, it promotes their message to a level of importance above our own belief in open discourse and essential freedom.

  • romeo

    @ Chris #28: The “fabric of our nation”? You mean that old, worn out, raggedy, skid marked pair of underpants? Let’s not get too high-falutin’ about this country standing for anything anymore, shall we? But, yes, I agree with you. As long as they abide by the legal restriction on this sort of thing, they should have the same rights we do. I do wish that WE used our rights more in this regard, and also were granted more access to the media so the public could see our REAL faces. Whatever.

    As for WBC, can’t help but think that eventually someone is going to get mental all over their asses, big time, and then we can go to demonstrate at THEIR funeral.

  • ewe

    @DR: I don’t really care whether you agree with me or not. The fact you know and are so involved with people in public service does not discount the people who fall victim to them because they are not so fortunate. What i said about public employees being treated with more reverence is obvious. You yourself are contributing to it. I lived through and witnessed the hate of this shitbag family and the protests in front of families of gay people. I will go wherever i want regarding my comments to soldiers, cops and judges etc. Your approval is not what i need. And that is the crux of this case honey.

  • Chris

    I wouldn’t spit in their mouths if they were dying of thirst. Fuck the WBC. They should be run down with tanks. Bunch of vile cunts.

  • DR

    yes, yes, yes, for every douchebag you point to, Ewe, there are a dozen more doing the right thing. I’d rather support the good ones than hold up the bad ones as an example of everything wrong with the world.

  • caad4

    @ewe: I wondered over on huffpo why there was little to NO fire and upset folks when we were the only ones routinely bashed and harassed. A few folks sat up over Matthew, but then lay back upon their La Z Boys and went back to their beer and chips. Now everyone’s all up in arms? Understand, I want all the publicity over anything these freaks do, but I just wanna know where our back up was?

  • PopSnap

    Remember, these people have done more for us than possibly years of advocacy by GLAAD have done. Yes, that’s right- I think they should be allowed to spew their filth, have it make the news every time, and expose to EVERYBODY how awful these people are. Because there are still many fundies out there just like them- all too many. We would loose nothing by having them drop off the face of the Earth tommorrow. My 75 year old Catholic, Republican, tea partying grandmother now supports gay rights after running into these people picketing her friend’s son’s funeral; who was killed as a result of a bullet richocheting off a truck in Iraq.

    Show the world those 5% of people who think like this and they’ll be begging for our equal rights.

  • Joey

    @PopSnap: I gotta agree!

  • ewe

    @DR: i know DR and you also would like to spend your time trying to be (how did you say?) “one of the guys”. I got news for you not that you should care but don’t be offended when you find out they stereotypically chuckle about you behind your back. I have no intention of spending my life trying to imitate straight people. I am not straight nor do i want to be anything like that what i see. As a matter of fact, many gay people are simply incapable of (how does the craigslist ads of the world describe you?) “straight acting”. Wow, now that’s forward, I say facetiousy. I will give it to you credit for appearing to be someone who feels he needs to be within the system to change it but i much prefer honoring the drag queens who stormed out of the Stonewall bar, took off their heels and beat the shit out of rabid corrupt police force.

  • ewe

    @caad4: The answer to your inquiry is that free speech is fine as long as it is only gay people being persecuted by it. Once the state funded gangs such as police, military and the judiciary are effected then we hear the importance of protecting the privacy of the citizenry.

  • ewe

    @PopSnap: The only real solution is to have them declared psychiatric misfits. The courts attempt to do that to people every day. Why is this any different?

  • ewe

    @DR: Forgive me if i sounded rude to you. I just did not like your original statement that you did not agree with my politics. I personally feel that gay people who do not fight gay persecution have no political thought. But i have to remind myself that you are not my enemy.

  • strumpetwindsock

    A bit of a tangent, but the University of Ottawa just wrote Ann Coulter to be careful not to say anything that would incite hatred or she might get charged.

    Personally, I would prefer if they hadn’t warned her. I would love to see the RCMP taser her ass while she was wailing about her rights.

  • Helen

    I’m no legal expert by any means but couldn’t it be argued that in such an extreme cirumstance (the obscene language and signs used in their actions at funerals) constitutes “Fighting Words” in the First Amendment making such actions illegal. I would think that it would given such

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