Forums > Personal > USA: The Westboro idiots can now yell 'fire' and it's OK

forum rss feed
Author

*goodco* user not visiting Queenzone.com

Royalty: 1128 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 02 Mar 11, 17:47 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

http://www.aolnews.com/2011/03/02/westboro-baptist-church-ruling-dissenting-justice-samuel-alito/?icid=maing%7Cmain5%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk2%7C47809

We all expected the vote to be 6-3 for common courtesy and dignity, and yet the most unexpected Chief Justice discented on the side of common good.

I guess it would be OK for any of us to protest and carry signs outside of their homes, with the most profane and dispicable language, under the guise of 'free speech', and it would be OK.

Something is terribly wrong.

They left room for states to govern this behavior, yet..........99% of decent people here must be sickened beyond belief.

What will stop the extreme morons from carrying out similar actions?


"Discretionary posting is the better part of valor." Falstaff
GratefulFan user not visiting Queenzone.com
GratefulFan
Deity: 3776 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 02 Mar 11, 18:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Fascinating case, fascinating decision and fascinating dissent.   It's an immensely challenging question, and I simply can't say with any clarity where I fall on it.   I once took the 'Alito' side in an informal debate about the Westboro gang on a discussion board, just to see how and if I could argue it.   The essence of my argument  was that it was a clash of rights that could not automatically be resolved in favour of free speech, but honestly I never really felt like I was 'winning'. Funny that, because the 'slippery slope' argument of the free-speech-at-all-costs people is one of the informal logical fallacies.   As a premise, it's full of holes.  But if history has taught us anything it's that people can justify almost anything to themselves, and on that count I can see the need for dispassionate and unyielding protection of virtually all speech.  Society though is capable of making and accepting moral judgments in this arena, as limits on things like child pornography demonstrate.   How do we quantify victimhood? Why was the anguish this military father was forced to endure in the name of free speech not enough? I don't know on either count.  Like I said, fascinating.

YourValentine user not visiting Queenzone.com
registered July 27th 2001
YourValentine
Deity: 7611 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 03 Mar 11, 03:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I have a serious question about that case to people who may know:

If that church replaced "homosexuals" with "niggers" - would there be legal handle to make them stop like hate speech or disturbing the peace? In other words: if the church claimed that the death of soldiers is God's punishment for the USA for tolerating  black people as equal human beings - would that be okay with the freedom of speech or would there be a law that forbids it?


I do not want any google ads here.

magicalfreddiemercury user not visiting Queenzone.com
magicalfreddiemercury
Deity: 2693 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 03 Mar 11, 06:46 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

YourValentine wrote: I have a serious question about that case to people who may know:

If that church replaced "homosexuals" with "niggers" - would there be legal handle to make them stop like hate speech or disturbing the peace? In other words: if the church claimed that the death of soldiers is God's punishment for the USA for tolerating  black people as equal human beings - would that be okay with the freedom of speech or would there be a law that forbids it?

Courts would have a hard time justifying it on an emotional level, but legally, they'd have to allow it since there isn't a law banning the use of the word. What this group does is hateful, but it's not a crime.

We have to remember something important when it comes to them - they are a family of lawyers. Whatever they do will be just to the right of legal. They know how far they can push without being pushed back and so, unfortunately, they will continue to fight in court and win.


"The others don't like my interviews. And frankly, I don't care much for theirs." ~ Freddie Mercury



GratefulFan user not visiting Queenzone.com
GratefulFan
Deity: 3776 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 03 Mar 11, 11:52 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

YourValentine wrote: I have a serious question about that case to people who may know:

If that church replaced "homosexuals" with "niggers" - would there be legal handle to make them stop like hate speech or disturbing the peace? In other words: if the church claimed that the death of soldiers is God's punishment for the USA for tolerating  black people as equal human beings - would that be okay with the freedom of speech or would there be a law that forbids it?
==================================

With some very specific exceptions in some very specific circumstances, it's against the law to make a law against hate speech in the United States.  Free speech is one of the areas in which the US still indisputably leads in the sense of  not bending to trends in other parts of the world.  Many European countries and Canada in contrast can enforce limitations on free speech when it is deemed hate speech.   I definitely admire the American commitment to the underlying principles and in it's way the commitment to American exceptionalism, but at the same time I think it would be fascinating to study what the total impact on the culture has been.

The Real Wizard user is on Queenzone.com
The Real Wizard
Deity: 18622 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 03 Mar 11, 12:08 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

As long as it's in the name of religion, bar killing someone, it's allowed.

But in my opinion, this is not free speech.  There must be a limit.  Hijacking a soldier's funeral because the military is permissive of gays is not free speech.


"The more generous you are with your music, the more it comes back to you." -- Dan Lampinski



http://www.queenlive.ca
GratefulFan user not visiting Queenzone.com
GratefulFan
Deity: 3776 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 03 Mar 11, 12:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

In this case the ruling had little if anything to do with Westboro's status as a (weird creepy hateful) church.  The main points of the opinion centred around the the fact that the demonstration took place "in a public place on a matter of public concern".  An excerpt from the Roberts opinion follows:

Given that Westboro’s speech was at a public place on a matter of public concern, that speech is entitled to “special protection” under the First Amendment. Such speech cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt. “If there is a bedrock principle underly- ing the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397, 414 (1989). Indeed, “the point of all speech protection . . . is to shield just those choices of content that in someone’s eyes are misguided, or even hurtful.” Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., 515 U. S. 557, 574 (1995).....

Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here— inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate. That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case.


Interestingly, in the concurring opinion Justice Breyer writes that the decision is limited to 'in-person picketing about matters of public concern'. He went on to say that the court 'does not examine in depth the effect of television broadcasting' and 'internet postings'.  It has been interpreted by some that this wording indicates that the court may be looking ahead to cases relating to hate speech in other mediums and to bullying. 

An excerpt from Alito's dissent for interest as well:

Respondents’ outrageous conduct caused petitioner great injury, and the Court now compounds that injury by depriving petitioner of a judgment that acknowledges the wrong he suffered.

In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like petitioner.


In saying this he by implication rejects the slippery slope argument and argues instead for principles of the middle ground.

GratefulFan user not visiting Queenzone.com
GratefulFan
Deity: 3776 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 03 Mar 11, 12:24 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sir GH wrote:

Hijacking a soldier's funeral because the military is permissive of gays is not free speech.
============================

It was less about the connection to military policy and more about seeking attention by doing something incendiary and provocative.  They try to show up at every emotionally sensitive event with any kind of public face.  Remember when they tried to cross the border to picket the funeral of Tim MacLean after he was brutally and shockingly beheaded on a Greyhound bus by a man suffering from schizophrenia?

The Real Wizard user is on Queenzone.com
The Real Wizard
Deity: 18622 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 03 Mar 11, 15:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Unfortunately yes, I do remember it very well.  Rarely do I side with the Harper government on anything, but I was very glad those nutjobs were denied access to my country.


"The more generous you are with your music, the more it comes back to you." -- Dan Lampinski



http://www.queenlive.ca
GratefulFan user not visiting Queenzone.com
GratefulFan
Deity: 3776 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 03 Mar 11, 15:50 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The UK was able to keep them out too - I forget on which technicality.  With Tim MacLean's funeral, I remember trying to wonder at the time if free speech was in any way a casualty, but the whole thing was too gruesome and terrible to try and think about anything beyond the victim's family and friends.

magicalfreddiemercury user not visiting Queenzone.com
magicalfreddiemercury
Deity: 2693 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 03 Mar 11, 15:57 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

GratefulFan wrote: An excerpt from Alito's dissent for interest as well:

Respondents’ outrageous conduct caused petitioner great injury, and the Court now compounds that injury by depriving petitioner of a judgment that acknowledges the wrong he suffered.

In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like petitioner.

What I find interesting about this response is the emotion it contains. The Supreme Court is supposed to rule on facts, with the justices resisting the urge to insert personal opinion or leanings. In this case, as in others regarding Alito, he allowed emotion to color his judgment. That's not to say I don't agree with him (in this case) but what we "feel" or "want" is not always in line with what is legal. Very interesting. Thanks for posting these court opinions.


"The others don't like my interviews. And frankly, I don't care much for theirs." ~ Freddie Mercury



jpf user not visiting Queenzone.com

Bohemian: 710 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 04 Mar 11, 02:28 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sir GH wrote: As long as it's in the name of religion, bar killing someone, it's allowed.

But in my opinion, this is not free speech.  There must be a limit.  Hijacking a soldier's funeral because the military is permissive of gays is not free speech.

---

It's not free speech, it's hate speech.

Some day someone who doesn't care about consequences
will put these fucking pieces of shit in their graves.

Inbreed white trash.  Hopefully long, painful fatal diseases are
headed their way.


"Every night's a party at Melina's mansion!"
thomasquinn 32989 user not visiting Queenzone.com
thomasquinn 32989
Deity: 6256 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 04 Mar 11, 03:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

YourValentine wrote: I have a serious question about that case to people who may know:

If that church replaced "homosexuals" with "niggers" - would there be legal handle to make them stop like hate speech or disturbing the peace? In other words: if the church claimed that the death of soldiers is God's punishment for the USA for tolerating  black people as equal human beings - would that be okay with the freedom of speech or would there be a law that forbids it?
===

No, that would not make a difference. Under American federal law, private organizations/meetings can disregard any and all equality provisions, whereas public organizations cannot. For instance, a bank or a political party cannot refuse to admit, for instance, a homosexual black communist, whereas a private organization like a church, or the KKK for that matter, has every right to refuse and even verbally abuse anyone they like on whatever ridiculous basis they choose, so long as it is not accompanied by criminal acts, such as threats.

This legal pitfall has been under assault since at least 1948, when the NAACP challenged it, but it has held up to this day. I, too, find that so-called freedom of speech is over-protected.


Not Plutus but Apollo rules Parnassus

YourValentine user not visiting Queenzone.com
registered July 27th 2001
YourValentine
Deity: 7611 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 04 Mar 11, 07:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Really interesting. I cannot quite understand why the judges found that the "church" did exercise their right to speak in public about a public issue when in fact they do travel far to abuse funerals for their hate speech. These funerals are private, aren't they? A dead soldier is not public property only because he died in public service.

How about the "funeral protection bill"  that Arizona issued after the recent shooting? Would that be unconstitutional, as well? Isn't there protected area around government buildings where people cannot demonstrate for security reasons and if yes  -  can't there be protected space for decency reasons at funerals?


I do not want any google ads here.

Holly2003 user not visiting Queenzone.com
Hot Buttered Soul
Holly2003
Deity: 4706 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 04 Mar 11, 08:59 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

jpf wrote: Sir GH wrote: As long as it's in the name of religion, bar killing someone, it's allowed.

But in my opinion, this is not free speech.  There must be a limit.  Hijacking a soldier's funeral because the military is permissive of gays is not free speech.

---

It's not free speech, it's hate speech.

Some day someone who doesn't care about consequences
will put these fucking pieces of shit in their graves.

Inbreed white trash.  Hopefully long, painful fatal diseases are
headed their way.
###############################################################

Wow. You lecturing anyone on hate speech. When did you get your irony bypass operation?


"With a population of 1.75 million, Northern Ireland should really be a footballing minnow. Instead, they could be better described as the piranhas of the international game" (FIFA.com)
thomasquinn 32989 user not visiting Queenzone.com
thomasquinn 32989
Deity: 6256 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 05 Mar 11, 06:00 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

YourValentine wrote: Really interesting. I cannot quite understand why the judges found that the "church" did exercise their right to speak in public about a public issue when in fact they do travel far to abuse funerals for their hate speech. These funerals are private, aren't they? A dead soldier is not public property only because he died in public service.

How about the "funeral protection bill"  that Arizona issued after the recent shooting? Would that be unconstitutional, as well? Isn't there protected area around government buildings where people cannot demonstrate for security reasons and if yes  -  can't there be protected space for decency reasons at funerals?
======

Well, there are a number of legal dilemma's. A soldier, dead or alive, is not public property. However, a graveyard is. Therefore, the Westboro-approach is legally a demonstration held in a public area. It *would* be a crime if they were to disrupt the service in a church or funeral home, for instance, but seeing how the Phelps-family is composed almost exclusively of lawyers, they are unlikely to make such a mistake.

The Arizona-bill you refer to is problematic. State laws that contradict federal laws are automatically unconstitutional (this was one of the legal issues finally decided by the outcome of the American Civil War), however, it is debatable whether this funeral protection bill is in violation of federal law. If this hasn't already happened, I am quite sure it will be challenged by the Westboro-bunch or other fanatics, which means it'll probably go to the federal supreme court eventually. The interesting thing there is that the U.S. supreme court itself decides which cases it will hear. Theoretically, this means they could uphold a lower-court's ruling by simply not hearing the case. This is relevant because such a lower court is not allowed to rule on the strict constitutionality of a law, they can only decide whether it contradicts other federal laws.

As far as I'm aware (but I'm no expert here) only government buildings can be made into zones protesters can be barred from.

The additional problem with soldiers is that everyone who has ever served in the U.S. army is entitled to burial on Arlington National Cemetary (which, incidentally, used to be Robert E. Lee's plantation), or, I think, local military cemetaries, and they are subject to a separate set of regulations I am only very vaguely familiar with, entitled the Code of Federal Regulations.


Not Plutus but Apollo rules Parnassus

The Real Wizard user is on Queenzone.com
The Real Wizard
Deity: 18622 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 06 Mar 11, 15:08 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Just because it's legal doesn't make it right.

Rick Mercer once said, "it may be legal to go up to a veteran, give him a quarter, and take all the poppies from the box - but it doesn't make it right."


"The more generous you are with your music, the more it comes back to you." -- Dan Lampinski



http://www.queenlive.ca
thomasquinn 32989 user not visiting Queenzone.com
thomasquinn 32989
Deity: 6256 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 07 Mar 11, 06:00 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

legal =/= ethical.

If it did, most of the best-paid lawyers in the world would be unemployed. It's probably a good thing, too, because if the unethical was automatically illegal, we'd essentially be back under absolute rule by the Catholic church as was the case for most of the middle ages. I find what the Westboro-cult does repulsive, but I just can't think of any way to beat them legally without doing more bad than good.

Technically, though, it is quite legal for citizens to hinder the Westboro protests. So I'd recommend all Americans who live near a site these swines are going to be protesting at to get their friends together and do whatever they can (short of actual physical contact) to hinder these 'people' in their repulsive protests. It's your moral and legal right.


Not Plutus but Apollo rules Parnassus

magicalfreddiemercury user not visiting Queenzone.com
magicalfreddiemercury
Deity: 2693 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 07 Mar 11, 06:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

ThomasQuinn wrote:Technically, though, it is quite legal for citizens to hinder the Westboro protests. So I'd recommend all Americans who live near a site these swines are going to be protesting at to get their friends together and do whatever they can (short of actual physical contact) to hinder these 'people' in their repulsive protests. It's your moral and legal right.


Agreed.

There have been silent counter-protests in the past. People have arrived with huge angel wings attached to their backs and when the Westboro family started holding up their signs and shouting, the 'angels' turned their backs to them wing-to-wing effectively blocking them out. Since cars pulling into the cemetery had windows closed, there's a good chance the sound was blocked out as well. Groups with 'butterfly' wings have shown up for other funerals and the Hell's Angels arrived with leather, steel and rumbling engines. The most interesting, I think, was Elizabeth Edward's funeral because the Westboro's announced they'd picket and then were outnumbered by a huge gathering of people with signs of peace, love, and hope. The Westboro family retreated without incident.

If they're not approached, they don't get as fired up and ready to sue. Peaceful counter-protests do seem to work but I wonder if funeral homes/cemeteries can put buffers of some sort (like office cubicle panels. lol) in the road between the protesters and the mourners so one group can't see the other. As it is, the Westboro group has to stay 500 feet (yards?) away, so there's plenty of room to block them.

Also, they shouldn't be getting all the publicity the media so eagerly affords them.


"The others don't like my interviews. And frankly, I don't care much for theirs." ~ Freddie Mercury



jpf user not visiting Queenzone.com

Bohemian: 710 posts
add to buddy list send PM

Posted: 07 Mar 11, 22:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Holly2003 wrote: jpf wrote: Sir GH wrote: As long as it's in the name of religion, bar killing someone, it's allowed.

But in my opinion, this is not free speech.  There must be a limit.  Hijacking a soldier's funeral because the military is permissive of gays is not free speech.

---

It's not free speech, it's hate speech.

Some day someone who doesn't care about consequences
will put these fucking pieces of shit in their graves.

Inbreed white trash.  Hopefully long, painful fatal diseases are
headed their way.
###############################################################

Wow. You lecturing anyone on hate speech. When did you get your irony bypass operation?

----

You're as white trash as they come.


"Every night's a party at Melina's mansion!"