oral arguments

THE SUPREMES: Kagan & Co. Just 3 Days Away From Hearing Westboro’s Free Funeral Speech Claim

With three women on the bench for the first time, the Supreme Court’s 2010-11 term will tackle a slew of cases predicated one on of our favorite issues ’round these parts: the First Amendment. Put a condom on in case you blow your wad, because there’s also some gays mixed in!

With the Supreme Court’s term beginning Monday, you’ll have to wait just two more days to get to Snyder v. Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church case that’ll decide whether military funerals are special “no free speech” zones. Oral arguments there begin Wednesday. (Here’s an exhaustive explanation of that case’s twists and turns.)

The court will look at provocative anti-gay protests at military funerals and a California law banning the sale of violent video games to children. These cases worry free speech advocates, who fear the court could limit First Amendment freedoms.

The funeral protest lawsuit, over signs praising American war deaths, “is one of those cases that tests our commitment to the First Amendment,” said Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Another case involves a different aspect of the First Amendment, the government’s relationship to religion. The justices will decide whether Arizona’s income tax credit scholarship program, in essence, directs state money to religious schools in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

And yet some things never change: Perennial swing vote Anthony Kennedy, who joins Antonin Scalia in sitting next to Chief Justice John Roberts, remains the focus of every onlooker. Well, almost. Because the court’s newest inductee Elena Kagan has recused herself from 20 of the court’s 38 cases because as U.S. solicitor general, she argued them. Which means we’re gonna have the possibility of plenty of 4-4 votes, in which case nothing gets decided (and the lower courts’ rulings stand).

[AP, Topeka Capital-Journal]

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  • whatever

    Protesting anyone’s funeral is low class and abhorrent. WBC has been protesting funerals of AIDS victims for years, with no real outcry outside of gay rights and HIV/AIDS advocacy groups. When they started protesting military funerals, that’s when the shit hit the fan. This is America, I guess.

    That said, I think the justices should err on the side of free speech, not matter how offensive.

  • maxpower

    @whatever: I agree, but a lot of people on here are gonna flame and try to say the law should be based on emotion.

  • jamison

    @maxpower: nope. as sad as these low-lifes are, i’m all for fee speech.

  • matt

    i agree… need to be able to protect… just like if someone wants to protest at the Westboro Church…

  • randy

    If there was any doubt that Kagan is a lesbian, take a look at that purple outfit. Just ghastly.

    (Cue all the thumbs down….)

  • Chris H

    I’m glad people are protecting free speech, even if it’s from the hateful WBC. The base of equality is “equal.”


    Unfortunately we have to allow free speech. Yet if the Bush administration was able to get away with “free speech zones” to segragate protests away from their gatherings the same should apply here………

    I find it amazing that a grieving family member of either a fallen soldier or an AIDS victim has not used and SUV as a battering ram to slam that band of inbred scumbags directly to that special corner of hell and eternal damnation Satan reserved for them………It would take only a single juror to set them free……….

  • samthor

    As pathetic as they are, our 1st Amendment is more important.

    Any law written to ban the WBC could be used against the rest of us in other situations.

  • GayGOP

    To be honest, I think that ruling against the WBC might be reasonable, without destroying the First Amendment. IIRC, this originated with a suit for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. To rule for WBC would gut the very tortious acts that they are accused of, and I cannot support a First Amendment defense to what lawyers refer to as IIED. Our speech rights do not die when we say that a person cannot scream fire in a theatre, and nor do they die when we say that a person cannot seek to cause extreme emotional distress by their words and actions.

  • the crustybastard

    “Perennial swing vote Anthony Kennedy”

    Nonsense. When he was appointed by Reagan, Anthony Kennedy was a solid member of the conservative bloc.

    Since the ’80s, SCOTUS has moved soooo far to the hard right that a former hardline conservative is now considered a “moderate.”

    The present court is at least as ossified and rancid as the court during infamous Lochner Era.

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