first amendment

Westboro Baptist Church Wins At Supreme Court: 8-1 Decision Upholds Their Right To Be Vile

Only Samuel Alito dissented in the Supreme Court’s just-announced 8-1 decision overturning a $5 million verdict against the Westboro Baptist Church that concluded the family of slain Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder had a right to bury a loved one in peace. Citing the Phelps clan’s First Amendment rights, the justices were clearly influenced by our own argument about why Westboro should be let off the hook. Looks like sometimes, Westboro Baptist is right! Writing in his dissent, Alito argues, “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #politics #firstamendment #fredphelps stories and more


  • kernelt

    well I guess the issue would be better left in the private hand of the people…
    P.S. I hope Karma kick them in the butt when they gather around an armed family.

  • Caleb

    As much as I personally hate the decision, the Supreme Court got it right. As an attorney, this is the rarest of opinions in that I wholly agree with the majority and the dissent.

  • Spike

    Wow, you don’t see the right wing christian republican hawk pro-military homophobes screwed over by the Supreme Court very often.

  • Francis

    It’s the correct decision, but a sad one nonetheless.

  • Damon

    The problem here is the toss up between human right guarenteeing freedom of speech and guarenteeing equality.

    Obviously I in no-way support their cause but I wouldn’t want to shut them down completely as they have a right to their opinion and their religion.

    However freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of actions. Their protests outside funerals are completely inappropriate and they should be punished severely for the emotional trauma they cause.

  • Gregory Gorman

    As disgusting as Westboro’s practices are, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed their First Amendment rights and this is good for a democracy. This means that Westboro can continue to say what they believe but so can all of us. We should now move on from Westboro and leave them in the trash can of prejudice where they belong. Let’s take the Supreme Court’s advice and start affirming our First Amendement rights just like they said we should.

  • alejandro


  • Red Meat

    @alejandro: yeah, you got a problem? I bet a bitch is one.

  • espy

    But this is NOT a protest, this is a verbal assault.

  • Adonis-of-Fire

    Where’s that church? I feel like driving up there and burn it with everyone inside :)

  • Mac McNeill

    I’ve been reading comments on different news outlets including Fox News. One really made me laugh. It stated “This is what happens when you have a liberal court”. Everything is blamed on the liberals even when the majority of the court are conservatives right wing zealots.

    As long as we acknowlege them they will protest. If we pretend they’re not there, they’ll go away. They are nothing more than public seeking idiots.

  • DJ

    I don’t think this is the right decision. People can say that harassment is freedom of speech but it’s still HARASSMENT which is illegal. Essentially this pathetic group of people are tormentors that harass innocent people. There is a point where “freedom of speech” goes too far and Westboro passed it a long time ago. I hope everyone in that cult burns in hell, even the kids. I have no sympathy for any of them.

  • GayGOP

    Justice Alito got this right. The First Amendment is no shield for tortious conduct. This was the wrong decision, IMHO, and it devalued the First Amendment.

  • Herthe von Jonez

    These Old Testament fanatics are very selective in the prohibitions they elect to abide by. I won’t be surprised when The Lord God decides to smite them for their hypocrisy, and for their arrogance in professing to know the mysterious ways of God.

  • B

    No. 1 · kernelt wrote, “well I guess the issue would be better left in the private hand of the people…”

    Why the people? Why not Corbin Fisher? I posted a couple of comments on the articles about CF sending threatening notices to kids regarding a technical article at that describes how you can frame someone. There was also a QUEERTY article about some guy/group called “anonymous” that was supposedly messing with the Phelps Klan’s web site.

    Let’s put two and two together … if the dubious character(s) calling himself/herself/themselves “anonymous” would read this article and follow the steps that would get Corbin Fisher to send threatening letters and take-down notices to the Phelps’, justice would be served all the way around. Corbin Fisher would sue the Phelps Klan, the Phelps Klan would counter sue Corbin Fisher, the public would be laughing its collective ass off, and the gay teens downloading porn would have something to point to if they wanted to stay in the closet.

    Of course, I’d only want to watch from a safe distance (not being a good enough writer to create a script for a silly movie with this as the premise).

  • straight-and-not-narrow

    Yay for the first amendment.
    Boo for common decency.

    Say, how about we all get together when one of the Phelps dies to picket their funeral? “God hates the Phelps”, “Thank God for dead Phelps”, “Have fun in hell”. We could have a potluck BBQ with live bands, make a real party of it. Aw, crud, then we’d be as evil as they are…

  • Smith

    The Phelps klan has now pissed off the WRONG people. Of course, they pissed off the queer community first, but we’re all too prissy take care of business properly. They are pushing and pushing until they achieve their goal of “martyrdom,” that is, if anyone will claim them as such when they are lying in the gutter where they belong. It would warm my heart if the queer and conservative communities came together to send the scum to hell.

  • Jim D

    I remember some event that the Phelps family (and that is the extent of their so-called church) were protesting here in San Francisco. Their goal was to have someone physically attack them so they could file a lawsuit seeking cash. These people are a joke. Let them protest – the Supreme’s got this one right. As vile as they are let them have their free speech.

  • Jaroslaw

    I thought one of the Supremes in favor of continued “free speech” for Westboro said something along the lines of “once you open the door to these kinds of lawsuits (limiting free speech) it is difficult to draw the line.

    I think this is the place to draw the line!

    There is no limiting of Westboro’s right to have their opinions; they can be just a vile and disgusting they want in every other avenue but there is no way SOMEONE ELSE’S funeral can possibly be their business. I don’t see how not allowing this one thing, at a funeral of all places can squelch political debate. Even if the deceased hated Gay people, stole billions of dollars, polluted an entire ecosystem etc. he or she is now dead and any further action against their estate would be in the hands of lawmakers or the courts. End of discussion (or it should be).

    Funny how when that world trade summit was here a year or two ago, it was perfectly legal to fence off protesters miles out of the way and how corporations and churches can contribute money to the political process when that was surely never intended by our founders…..

  • whatever

    @GayGOP: Er, libel and slander are torts and the GOP engages in that daily. Do you really want to go there?

  • whatever

    Does anyone find it interesting that people are up in arms because the Phelps clan protested the funeral of a dead soldier? They have been protesting the funerals of AIDS victims for many years now. Many of the people riled up over their protesting of soldier probably never raised a peep over their other protest activities.

    That said, it was the right decision.

  • greenmanTN

    Several of the Phelps have law degrees (Fred Sr is a disbarred lawyer) and they LIVE to get attacked or sued. That’s how they make their money. No doubt someone will have to pay their court costs, which probably includes some work they did themselves. Cha-CHING!

    The fact that Alito dissented is huge neon sign that the decision is the right one. Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts are plenty bad enough but Alito is worse.

    This is the way I look at it. There is no doubt that the Phelps are horrible, horrible people, despicable and evil in the true meaning of the word. Ironically though, their hateful tactics and ugly words have, on balance, helped the gay community more than they harmed it. The Phelps are SO awful, so repulsive that people soften their own homophobia rather than share something in common with the Phelps.

    One of the Phelps’ common tactics is to protest at high schools and universities because their drama department is doing “The Laramie Project.” Time after time the majority of the student body have come together to counter-protest against the Phelps, in support of gays. If you sent Ellen Degeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, and Adam Lambert to those same schools they wouldn’t be able to unify the students in support of gays the way the Phelps do. A common enemy does more to unite people than slogans and platitudes.

  • Jaroslaw

    You’re right #23 about people being repulsed by the Phelps clan and that students unify against them. Whether that means they’ve done more good than harm to the Gay community – well, I don’t know how you measure that. You could also say the constant publicity emboldens our enemies as well. As to students, and “youth” well, they are the most Gay friendly and unfortunately the least likely to vote, donate or join organizations so mostly our hope is in the future when as the dyed-in-the-wool conservatives/ultra religious pass from the scene.

  • Oprah

    I am surprised that of all the judges, Alito was the one to dissent.I had bets on scalia or Roberts.(you know, in the name of staunch pro war conservatives?) Very, very interesting.Good for them though. I agree with the verdict, you cannot open a Pandora box when it comes to first amendment.Nevertheless, Alito comes off good, and i applaud him for his profound dissent.

    It is however, staggering to understand, that all this protests stems from the notion of being staunch anti-gayism. Not anti- war or anti-soldiers, but anti- gay. I just watched Megyn Kelly on Oreilly, and i gotta say– i LOVVEEEEE HERR!! Shes awesome. Kelly, states that the ‘loonies 10 or so protesters, are related to each other’. LOOOL Seriously, can you believe this? I mean,it is one thing to hold religious belief that homosexuality is a sin, but a total different thing to take time to make posters, and involve your children.Even go protest at a funeral of a humanbeing. Imagine, God dont forbid, imagine one of their children grows up to be gay? Ya think suicide is the only option for the kid? LOOOOL

  • Soupy

    Oprah, I do wish that you would keep in mind those shellfish eaters and the men who sleep with their menstruating wives. They are sinning and you need to pray for them.

  • Wrong-Said Fred

    @straight-and-not-narrow: I LOVE IT! Count me in. The chant: Dead Fred was sick in the head; liked to flame gays and soldiers, now he’s roasting instead!

  • B

    No. 19 · Jim D wrote “I remember some event that the Phelps family (and that is the extent of their so-called church) were protesting here in San Francisco.”

    Apparently they met their match the last time they were in San Francisco. Some wise ass named Philip Huang parodied them (even fooling some locals) by being even more outrageous than the Phelps Freaks. You can see the video at (it would be offensive if you did not realize that he was putting on a performance to make fun of the bigots).

    But then, when Willie Brown was mayor, he described a visit to the White House by saying, “I could spend the night in either the Lincoln Bedroom or the Queen’s Bedroom, so I went with the guy who freed me rather than the voters who elected me.” He made wisecracks so often that it was expected of him and he could get away with almost anything. In the runoff election between Willie Brown (who is black) and Tom Ammiano (who is gay), some random voter said, “I think we should elect Willie as king and Tom as queen.” In a city where prejudice is greatly reduced (even if not completely eliminated) the possibilities for very funny statements skyrockets. It’s fine as long as it is good-natured fun and everyone is in on the joke.

  • Jaroslaw

    #22 I disagree that it was the right decision, but I meant to comment on your interesting observation – re: no one mentioned Phelps clan protesting at AIDS victims funerals. I can only say this – The media chose to make protesting at soldier’s funerals an issue. Gays as a community do not control the media. And Gay groups cannot take on every single issue.

  • Cam

    Honestly, this church is good for gay rights, the right wingers want their bigotry to taste like Carrie Prejean, pretty, and quiet, and not in your face. They HATE it when it takes the form of these guys because they don’t want people to see the ugly face of it.

  • Jaroslaw

    Cam – how do you measure that “this church is good for Gay rights?”

  • declanto

    I am exercising my constitutional rights by earnestly wishing a prolonged, excruciatingly painful, hideously disfiguring, hopelessly incurable, finally fatal disease on Phred and his entire family, followed by an eternal burning in their own Hell.

  • Soupy

    It has always been my fantasy that an enraged relative would go all charlie sheen on their asses at a funeral. I know that assault charges would be pursued, but I can’t think of a jury that wouldn’t nullify the verdict.

  • declanto

    @Soupy: Juries don’t nullify verdicts.

  • justiceontherocks

    @Jaroslaw: I agree with Cam. I think every time these hideous people show up spewing hatred, we look great by comparison. people usually don’t analyze – they take one side or the other. No one in their right mind takes Westboro’s side.

    @declanto: Correct – juries sometimes “nullify’ laws they don’t like by refusing to enforce them. They render verdicts.

  • justiceontherocks

    @GayGOP: Then you agree with the former governor of Alaska, who wrote: “Common sense & decency absent as wacko “church” allowed hate msgs [email protected] soldiers’ funerals but we can’t invoke God’s name in public square,” wrote Palin on Twitter shortly after the ruling was struck down.

    Puts you in great company.

  • Chris

    I side with Alito on this one. I have seen the first amendment be abused so badly by ingrates that it makes my stomach curl. I am sorry, but the first amendment doesn’t cover hate speech, and hopefully in time this country will wake up and realize that words are more harmful to people than anything else. Now with a case where an anti-gay student is perfectly fine in her hate against gays in school, does that mean we should also allow the KKK, and neo-nazis have their song and dance too? Is anyone else sick of these fucking double standards against us LGBT?

  • Keith

    The media didn’t care when the WBC was showing up at MCCs and funeral of gay guys but when it’s someone killed in one of W’s wars then it’s an issue. Fred and his little cult are a bunch of lawyers who have some wacked out ideas about pre-destination which makes them truly annoying but all in all pretty boring. They’ve had the same signs for over a decade, and there are so many signs and so few WBCers that they’ll be standing there holding four each. We’re giving them exactly what they want – attention.

  • hephaestion

    I wonder if the Supreme Court would have decided this case the same way if the Phelps had the “N” word on all their signs instead of the “F” word?

  • justiceontherocks

    @hephaestion: The Supreme Court upheld the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, IL, a heavily Jewish suburb of Chicago. I’m pretty sure the “N” word would be treated the same as the “F” word.

  • Oprah

    hephaestion –dont be an idiot. This is NOT about the “N” word being respected more than the “F” .LOL Why do gays always run to compare themselves with the Blacks whenever there is any gay bashing or gay discrimination? Its absurd and ridiculous. he he he he

    This is about First amendment and nothing more. Besides–i would like to see these idiots walk around with posters of the N word– i bet a thousand a thug brother will take him out. Maybe, thats the difference, we blacks dont yapp yapp like sissies, we like to be feared rather than respected! lol

  • christopher di spirito

    So President Pootie Tang’s SCOTUS appointments sided with the Westboro Baptist Church. Interesting. BTW, Alito is correct.

  • Jaroslaw

    #35 – Justice – Look, I ‘agree’ with Cam, they look terrible to people “in their right mind”. What I asked is how you measure your blanket statements. For example hate crimes occur every day, people discriminate every day. Rights ordinances get repealed. I just talked to a good friend whose niece is well aware his foreign partner cannot come to the USA but she commiserates/sympathizes on Facebook about a pet and yet has never said anything caring to her Uncle about his partner.

    Most simply, I can’t figure out how people have such strong feelings (and very often get to vote) on something that is NONE of their business anymore than it is my business to vote on what straight person they marry or how many kids they have. But obviously the majority of the public sees no problem with that since over 35 states amended their Constitutions to prohibit SSM.

  • Danny Haszard

    Harassment by religious extremist

    Jehovah’s Witnesses instigated court decisions in 1942 which involved cursing a police officer calling him a fascist and to get in your face at the door steps,….this same JW 1942 court decision upheld infamous Phelps hate church in 2011
    Danny Haszard

  • Shannon1981

    @Danny Haszard: There is a Kingdom Hall right by my house. They regularly visit my house. It is annoying to say the least….they keep at it even when you tell them you want nothing to do with them.

    If I had my way, religious extremists of all kinds would be shut up for good. But, the thing is, just like we have a right to say they are crazy and irritating, they have a right to do what they do as well. You take rights from one person/group of people, you risk the rights of all.

  • Sage Cat

    How about outlawing funeral protests? Citizens deserve privacy at all times. They (human scum) can protest a few blocks away if they feel the need. I wouldn’t allow these people to protest in front of my home- don’t I deserve privacy?

    These people aren’t even a church- they’re a societal hate vehicle. I am non-religious, but most churches have a vaguely respectable motive; to provide a sense of community and concentrate on spiritual awareness. This group causes emotional pain and broadcasts hateful and nonsensical messages. I will not call Westboro a church. They’re a bunch of attentionwhores. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were all a ruse, because they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank! I am interested in stopping this organization from protesting at funerals, but aside from this they do not deserve my attention.

  • Jaroslaw

    Sage Cat – see my post 20 – apparently protesting a few blocks away only applies if you are a corporation with millions to spend, NOT a private citizen.

    You make some reasonable points about what a church is however, taking things incrementally, who is to decide what a church is? Do we need candles? Religious objects/statues/paintings? Stained glass windows? A building even? Do leaders need training? In other words; One man’s trash is another’s treasure. One man’s church is another man’s cult.

Comments are closed.