I love Ed Morrissey‘s headline on this story: “SCOTUS: No jackass exception to the First Amendment.” It’s probably the right decision, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. According to the Washington Post:
A nearly unanimous Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech about public issues and upheld the right of a fringe church to protest near military funerals.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church’s picketing “is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible.” But he said government “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,” Roberts said.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was the lone dissenter.
“Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case,” Alito wrote.
You can find the majority decision here, and the dissent here. I’ve only had a chance to read excerpts so far, and as I said I think it was probably rightly decided, but Alito makes a very good case for Westboor’s opponent based on his status as a private citizen and the invective that was aimed directly at his dead son, who though a Marine was also a private rather than public figure.
I still think the best way to face down Westboor is public ridicule, and hope that those who oppose these anti-Christian cultists will do so at every public opportunity.