March 02, 2011

Westboro Wins

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled 8-1 in favor of the Westboro thugs.

On the one hand,the threshold for a first amendment exception must necessarily be kept very high, on the other hand this situation is  a pretty damned high threshold. The only thing a funeral protester of this sort does is inflict pain.

On the gripping hand, Jerry Pournelle brings some perspective as to the implications of this.

The decision was 8-1, Alito dissenting, and the Chief Justice exercised his prerogative to write the decision. That pretty well settles the matter: you have the right not only to say infuriating things, but also to say them in the most sensitive of places, so long as you are not disruptive: and you cannot be sued in civil courts for offending the parents of a war hero merely because you are being offensive.

This should have considerable impact on hate speech laws; it also ought to have some effect on the suppression of majority opinion because it offends a particular minority. If the Westbro Baptist Church has the right to say "Thank God for dead soldiers" at a funeral for a dead soldier, it should be difficult to defend suppressing displays "offensive" to Muslims outside their mosques. I haven't read the decision yet, but it certainly implies that non-disruptive speech knows no bounds of context and place.

So there is a silver lining. As Dr Pournelle points out, those hate speech laws are suddenly on much shakier ground.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 04:25 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 I truly find Westboro to be a vile and evil pestilence upon this country and would shed no tears if they woke up one morning and discovered themselves surrounded by a million hungry ocelots.  Yet even before Dr P pointed out how it has deeper ramifications, I applauded the Supreme Court's decision. 

As much as I detest them, it's the right call.  Now I feel icky for "supporting" them.

Posted by: Wonderduck at Wed Mar 2 22:57:03 2011 (W8Men)

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