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Posted at 5:37 PM ET, 03/ 2/2011

Supreme Court affirms Fred Phelps's right to be ugly

By Jonathan Capehart

When I read the breaking news alert this morning, I almost fell out of my chair. "Supreme Court upholds Westboro Baptist Church's right to stage anti-gay protests at funerals of U.S. troops." And after the initial shock wore off, I recognized that the near-unanimous ruling was the right decision.

godhatesfags.jpg

Look, Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church are engaged in a vile, hurtful, disrespectful and obnoxious family enterprise. They picket the funerals of men and women killed in action because, as the charming signs in the picture demonstrate, they believe military deaths are God's revenge for growing national acceptance of gay men and lesbians. "America is doomed for its acceptance of homosexuality," according to an undated pamphlet quoted by the Southern Poverty Law Center. "If God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for going after fornication and homosexuality then why wouldn't God destroy America for the same thing?"

Albert Snyder sued the "church" after members of the Phelps family picketed the 2006 Maryland funeral of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. But the Supreme Court rejected Snyder's contention that the demonstrations caused emotional distress, were an invasion of privacy and violated his right to free exercise of religion and peaceful assembly.

Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials. It did not disrupt Mathew Snyder's funeral, and its choice to picket at that time and place did not alter the nature of its speech. Because this Nation has chosen to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that public debate is not stifled, Westboro must be shielded from tort liability for its picketing in this case.

As reprehensible as their beliefs and actions are, the Phelpses are guaranteed under the Constitution the right to be ugly. Really ugly.

By Jonathan Capehart  | March 2, 2011; 5:37 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Comments

If you truly want to stop these people then follow the money. I don't think I have ever seen an article stating where the funding comes from.

Posted by: LaureninGlenBurnie | March 2, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

My initial reaction was much the same as yours- Nausea. However, I soon started thinking to myself- What a great country this is, to allow such vile, cretins, to engage in free speech, religious freedom, and right to peacefully protest.

Posted by: at7000 | March 2, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

LaureninGlenBurnie - Good question; and NPR just published a piece on the church that goes into this. Turns out they seem to be getting most of it from their own law practice! :-D 11/13 of Fred Phelps's children have law degrees. "The protests are in themselves a source of some income...Over the years the Phelpses have filed lawsuits against communities that try to stop them from demonstrating." Perhaps it's true then; ignore them and they will go away? Maybe?

http://www.npr.org/2011/03/02/134198937/a-peek-inside-the-westboro-baptist-church

Posted by: kingpigeon | March 2, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

What makes you think there is a "money trial?" What are you insinuating- That a George Soros or MoveOn.org are behind this?

I would hazard a guess they are getting their money the old fashioned way- Taking Social Security checks from old ladies and otherwise "fleecing their flock."

Posted by: at7000 | March 2, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

@LaureninGlenBurnie - absolutely correct. Although I grudgingly know deep down that the Supreme Court is correct, as a former Naval officer, if I were part of a picketed family, I'd cross the street and punch the guy in the face and take my chances in court... I'd probably make a few grand on a CNN appearance...

Posted by: h46av8r | March 2, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

There are few acts more Un-American than minimizing the sacrifice of a true patriot who gave his life to protect American freedoms. Semper Fi, Marine! and may all the Phelpses and their kind go meet their maker the hard way, tomorrow.

Posted by: bigdogdallas | March 2, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

The Phelps work for the department of corrections and we should be stalking them there. God hates bigots! Scream profanity at them all day at work. Be sure to make their employers very uncomfortable with ugly signs and very ugly language! 24 x 7 scream profanity at the Westburro church of bigots while they try to work, go shopping, try to eat dinner! Just happen to be in the neighborhood protesting stupidity and the Phelps do epitomize stupidity!

Posted by: MickPatriot1 | March 2, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

They do not have the right to stalk military funerals. Yes, I said stalk! Be as ugly as you want. Have all the idiotic web addresses and false prophecies you want posted every where you want. But deliberately stalking the funerals of fallen soldiers is stalking and terrorism. Besides being a hate crime when directed at the families of fallen heroes. I think I will start one like; God hates Blacks. Or God hates Wops. Or God hates Micks! Or God hates Honkies! Or maybe God hates Jews. Or maybe God hates Politicians. Or better yet God hates Supreme Court Justices! Hate crime pure and simple. Just because the Supreme Court wimps happen to dislike Gays does not make it legal! But I expect nothing less from the Supreme Court. In God we trust is unconstitutional but still on our money! Constitutionality and the Supreme Court’s decisions have never been on the same page. Starting today I want to picket the Supreme Court Justices and their children. God hates them for ignoring their constitutional duty and I intend to tell them about it! Day and night every where they maybe. Taking their kids to school I’ll be there chanting God hates you! On the way into work I’ll be there chanting God hates you! 24 x 7 God hates you! Loudly with plenty of profanity especially when their children or grand children are present! This should be often! Persecution of any persons is wrong, illegal, and unconstitutional.

Posted by: MickPatriot1 | March 2, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

"@LaureninGlenBurnie - absolutely correct. Although I grudgingly know deep down that the Supreme Court is correct, as a former Naval officer, if I were part of a picketed family, I'd cross the street and punch the guy in the face and take my chances in court... I'd probably make a few grand on a CNN appearance..."

My thoughts exactly. My son and Son-in-law are both serving as MARINEs...the Westboro morons would be meeting God personally should they foul the air of my children. I honestly believe I'd be doing the nation a service by ridding this filth from the face of the earth.

Posted by: jstain999 | March 2, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse


These protestors need a good dose of street justice.
.

Posted by: Billw3 | March 2, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

@jstain999 - God bless the Marines - best group of people I ever met bar none.

Posted by: h46av8r | March 2, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

These actions are hate crimes. How can you see it any other way. Hate crimes are not legal.

Posted by: dianadoo | March 2, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse


jstain999,

They'll eventually protest at the 'wrong' place.
.

Posted by: Billw3 | March 2, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse

God does not hate America or her people. He hates the sin. He wasts us to turn away from our wicked ways and turn back to Him. He is the one true God and He loves us. He gave His life for every single person ever born and on this earth. He is only a prayer away. A father should be able to bury his son in peace and his way. God is a loving God and loves us all. We need to make sure we know Him personally today before it is too late.

Posted by: karen2658 | March 2, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

These actions are hate crimes. How can you see it any other way. Hate crimes are not legal.

Posted by: dianadoo | March 2, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

It shouldn't be so easy to step into Westboro. Aren't they everywhere? Whew!

Posted by: strollingthesidewalk | March 2, 2011 6:51 PM | Report abuse


One of these days, some upset friend, parent, army buddy, or Patriot Guard Rider is going to give those idiots a beating like they've never had before.

Posted by: iluv9mm | March 2, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

This ruling doesn't mean that the USA is a "great country"; it means that the USA is comprised of a very dysfunctional, soulless culture.

Posted by: Manwolf | March 2, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

The actions of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Babtist church are vile and dispicable, and even more so as they profess this to be God's will. To them, I would suggest a greater familiarity with 1 John 4 might be beneficial to their eternal souls. Meanwhile, it would be a great shame if their antics did anything to weaken our free speech rights. Much as I would like to see these guys hit with a giant civil penalty, I guess the Supreme Court got this one right.

Posted by: truthwillout | March 2, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

There is, however, NOTHING in this ruling that prevents the Democratic Party from EXPELLING him from our ranks. It's a disgrace that this hasn't been done. The man was a candidate for U.S. Senate multiple times, and for Mayor of Topeka all on the Democrat ticket. He was a delegate for Al Gore and hosted a fundraiser with him at his house! Why is there no denunciation of these creeps?

Posted by: chicoandtheman2001 | March 2, 2011 6:55 PM | Report abuse

If this is not screaming "FIRE!" in a crowded theater, I dont know what is. But I do have to give the Phelpses credit for courage. Do these "protesters" have police protection? I am shocked that there has not been bloodshed already--it suggests that, contary to what we see on the news, the US is a surprisingly civilized nation.

Just picture: "Sorry your Honor, I was driven temporarily insane by these protests, I was nearly insane at losing my son already, and I just snapped. I am sincerely, terribly, sorry for killing those folks, and it will not happen again."

Where would you find a jury to convict the father?

Posted by: periboob | March 2, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

These ugly people should be air dropped into the middle of the taliban.

Posted by: farmsnorton | March 2, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

"Albert Snyder sued the 'church' after . . . "

Thank you for putting "church" in quotes. Mr. Phelps and his unstable family and followers are a cult, by most any definition, and far from any church that claims to follow the Biblical gospels.

Posted by: ReasonableGuy | March 2, 2011 6:59 PM | Report abuse

It's not a hate crime and anyone who thinks it is demonstrates a lack of understanding of constitutional rights. To quote the article and the Supreme Court, the protest did not disrupt the funeral. So that's it, end of story. Newsflash ... it's an open and shut case as decided by the highest court in the land. Don't be so quick to take rights away from other people just because you don't like the message.

Posted by: guitarguymv | March 2, 2011 6:59 PM | Report abuse

This is not a free speech issue! The Supreme Court did not consider the preamble to the Constitution. It says that one of the purposes of the Constitution is to 'promote the general welfare'. The Supreme Court decision clearly does not meet this criteria.

Posted by: burmanjerry | March 2, 2011 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Today, 8 justices turned the 'legalize' of the 1st amendment into a mockery. What free speech allows people of hate to ruin a funeral? Do we permit yelling fire in a crowded theater (that is preventing free speech isn't it?) or do we allow public obsentity (of course not)? I suggest that this ruling today, permitting others to disrupt a funeral has nothing to do with free speech and it is an UTTER FAILURE of the 8 justices to exercise wisdom and protect the rights of those to peacefully bury their children. It is shameful and I am disgraced by this institution today as an American.

Posted by: wfclark1 | March 2, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

I hope the Phelps family holds one of their demonstrations in the Seattle area. I'll be in attendance with my baseball bat. A few missing kneecaps should slow them down a bit.

Posted by: moksha-4all | March 2, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart, we don't care what you did this morning when you read the breaking news. Just report the news and don't dramatize it like you did at the very beginning of the article.

Posted by: airwalker82 | March 2, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

If I ever meet Fred again I'm going to hurt him. I don't agree with this decision at all. This is another one of their 'oh let's just look at the world in some sort of abstract detached way' type decisions that don't consider the victims of their exploitive hate.

Personally I hope someone burns their church with them in it. I'll cheer.

Posted by: Nymous | March 2, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

I guess these people don't realize that because of the military they have the right to protest. As far as being anti-gay it is not there place to judge anyone that is up to God. I can't believe that something can't be done to stop them. Grieving families don't need that when they are burying a loved one. I would consider this a Hate crime not just a protest. They need to look into this a little more and see if some kind of loop hole can keep these people from this. Something really needs to be done about this and it is about time someone stands up to these people instead of hiding behind the so called laws. That is why we are in the mess we are in is because everyone is afraid to upset/hurt someone's feelings. Our lawmakers need to start taking a stand instead of trying to be politically correct all the time. When they started that, that is why this country is falling apart.

Posted by: smooch13 | March 2, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who bothers to review the article archive of this well-described "partisan" columnist can guess ahead of time his position on any issue involving homosexuality, and such predictability is never a hallmark of quality journalism.

Serious journalists - and serious citizens of modern democracies - understand the importance of protecting free speech.

Posted by: hanley12 | March 2, 2011 7:05 PM | Report abuse

It is freedom of speech. I have read about where they get their money. They're a family and several of them have law degrees. They antagonize people, but don't break the law. They wait until someone infringes on their rights and sue them. They have successfully sued several people.

There have been some good peaceful counter-rallies that have far out-numbered them. That's all we can really do.

Posted by: JoyceD | March 2, 2011 7:05 PM | Report abuse

The Phelps people came to Santa Fe and were completely ignored. Worked. Try it.

Posted by: elizabeth21641 | March 2, 2011 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Great decision by the USSC. Reaffirms the First Amendment and shows why we are the greatest nation is the world.

Alito should be impeached, though.

Posted by: HumanSimpleton | March 2, 2011 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Did it ever occur to anyone that Fred Phelps and his followers are God's punishment for the rest of us for allowing the hateful too much freedom?

Posted by: ObliviaNewtonJohn | March 2, 2011 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Yep...lets hope for Karma..us vets could handle that one for sure...Semper Fi
Devil Doc 66-69

Posted by: tsoitawodi4u | March 2, 2011 7:09 PM | Report abuse

@ObliviaNewtonJohn

...or Nature's punishment for believing in superstition?

Posted by: HumanSimpleton | March 2, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I fretted a bit about my earlier post, I worried it could be misconstrued as inflammatory, or encouraging violence...
But I have the Supreme court on my side, and anyway, God told me to post it.

Posted by: periboob | March 2, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I think it's ugly but I agree with the Supremes on this. Too bad they don't defend free speech against the NSA, CIA and FBI. God forbid you should go to a forbidden "political" site. I like to hear what is reported in AlJazera but only go to stories already posted on Google News. My point is that the Supremes are eager to defend the nut cases right of free speech, but not ordinary citizens who want news from sources other than the corporate media. I'm trying not to sound too paranoid here...

Posted by: mrandre76 | March 2, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Cities/counties/states should take this opportunity to revise statutes regarding proximity of protests to funerals, and how much time in advance a permit needs to be obtained.

Make it a requirement that all protests require a permit sixty days in advance, and that no protests can come within one mile of any cemetery on a day of any burial.

Posted by: NateWells | March 2, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

It is amazing how many people here would have thought calling President Bush any name in the book was OK.

I do not agree with these people and find thier actions reprehensible, however, as an exmilitary person myself, it is this freedom that I fought for. As the man once said, "I disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

If we put any rules on what is OK or acceptable then we endanger everyones right to free speech. You might have the power now to make rules about what is OK to say, but someday your enemy may have that same power, if you use yours now to minimize what he can say, then it will be easy for him to take away your freedom then.

These people are dispicable in my mind, but I have to say the Supreme Court got it right, this time.

Posted by: ne3l_ham | March 2, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

It is amazing how many people here would have thought calling President Bush any name in the book was OK.

I do not agree with these people and find thier actions reprehensible, however, as an exmilitary person myself, it is this freedom that I fought for. As the man once said, "I disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

If we put any rules on what is OK or acceptable then we endanger everyones right to free speech. You might have the power now to make rules about what is OK to say, but someday your enemy may have that same power, if you use yours now to minimize what he can say, then it will be easy for him to take away your freedom then.

These people are dispicable in my mind, but I have to say the Supreme Court got it right, this time.

Posted by: ne3l_ham | March 2, 2011 7:14 PM | Report abuse

As much as these people make me sick to my stomach, the supreme court ruling affirms my personal right to disagree with them and any other person or government official in this country. I do feel their langauge is hateful and if it inspired anyone to action I feel the supreme court would need to reconsider their ruling in light of hate speech. I do find it interesting that these people are so blinded to the publics' reaction to their message and actually they seem to feed on the attention. Personally, I think we should all make donations to our favorite charities(LGBT & Military) in the name of the Westboro church & Fred himself. Let him explain that one to the grand kids. The only way to effect positive change is to be the change yourself. Make the best possible, positive decisions in your life in this moment and the "phelps" of the world will fall away into obscurity.

Posted by: artistjsudler | March 2, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse

The Court got this right. On the other hand I doubt you will find much help for the crazies of the church when their tires go flat, they are accidently sprayed with skunk because these things tend to equal out.

Posted by: ledit | March 2, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse

No, that "church" is beyond ugly, and I guarantee you that not many people will have the "epiphany" you did, in seeing that this Supreme Court decision is the "right one".

Posted by: elfraed | March 2, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

As much as these people make me sick to my stomach, the supreme court ruling affirms my personal right to disagree with them and any other person or government official in this country. I do feel their langauge is hateful and if it inspired anyone to action I feel the supreme court would need to reconsider their ruling in light of hate speech. I do find it interesting that these people are so blinded to the publics' reaction to their message and actually they seem to feed on the attention. Personally, I think we should all make donations to our favorite charities(LGBT & Military) in the name of the Westboro church & Fred himself. Let him explain that one to the grand kids. The only way to effect positive change is to be the change yourself. Make the best possible, positive decisions in your life in this moment and the "phelps" of the world will fall away into obscurity.

Posted by: artistjsudler | March 2, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

My family have been Baptists for many, many years and we don't believe in what Westboro is doing. It is disrespectful to the dead as well as to the living. They are supposed to be Christians. DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE UNTO YOURSELF. Hey, way don't ALL
the people that Westboro Baptists dislike, disapprove of, etc. simply show up at their church each and every time they choose to disrupt a sacred service/memorial so they will have somebody at their location????? God doesn't ask nor want his followers to be Judge and/or Jury; that's his position right?
SHAME ON THE WESTBORO CONGREGATION AND THE JUDGE THAT SAYS IT'S OKAY FOR THEM TO PICKET; HOW WILL HE FEEL WHEN THEY SHOW UP FOR ONE OF HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS FUNERALS SPEWING THEIR HATE.

Posted by: mymargot | March 2, 2011 7:19 PM | Report abuse

So when Military families plan for a funeral they are renting a ‘private venue’. In other words ‘private property’. The grave site must also be bought and is private property. So tell me what rights Fred Philips and his people have to be in either place. They certainly weren’t invited, and they are trespassing. Our law enforcement officers should be arresting each and every one of them and carting them off to jail.
Our Supreme Court justices are obliviously oblivious to this aspect of law. I am fairly sure if I attempted to go to a private venue, let’s say a concert of a band I don’t care for, and voiced my opinion, I would be arrested.
I hope none of these justices has a military family member who sacrifices their life for this country…they wouldn’t like Fred’s mass of insanity showing up at their family members funeral. But wait…they would have the entire government/secret service to help them out, unlike the common family who will have to live with the justice’s decisions.
I am a Gold Star mother.

Posted by: AaronsMom | March 2, 2011 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Threats to their lives is no better than people who threaten the lives of gay people and those who actual murder, as was done to Matthew Shepard and other people.

We have to show them there are more people who "stand on the side of love" and drown out their voice as was done in Woodbridge, VA on Nov. 15, 2010. Search for "Woodbridge Counter-Protest Dwarfs Westboro Baptist Church" to read the story on woodbridge-va.patch.com which also has lots of photos.

Posted by: JoyceD | March 2, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

"Mr. Capehart, we don't care what you did this morning when you read the breaking news. Just report the news and don't dramatize it like you did at the very beginning of the article.

Posted by: airwalker82"

Airwalker82 - Capehart is a columnist. Paid to personalize what he writes. Paid to give his perspective on things. He is not a "reporter".

Same mistake is made with the fools on Faux News and on Reactionary Right-wing Radio. They are commentators. Expressing opinion. Drawing listeners (or viewers, or readers) they are not reporters of the news. Do not quote them or rely on them in an argument or debate. They are not primary, or even secondary, sources.

Posted by: ReasonableGuy | March 2, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

NateWells, your ideas to SEVER EVERYONE'S RIGHTS TO STOP A FEW are at least as scary as the religious fanatics.
Try to get a better perspective on what freedom is and how hard it is to preserve when so many would act like you. God what would you do about the many dangers around us many times greater? real terrorists with real dirty bombs OR cyber warfare, maybe we could get rid of the internet unless you are a gov. worker

Posted by: ledit | March 2, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

My god, but you people are idiots. There's no "hate crime" here because there was no crime committed. Phelps and his inbred gang of lawyers didn't stalk the military funeral; they were several hundred yards away.

Here's how you follow the money: Phelps puts on an ugly show (following the letter of the law) and baits people into attacking/suing him. He then wins in court on 1st Amendment grounds, which means he can collect huge payments via the federal Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976. That's why he travels out of state, so he can invoke that federal Act.

To those of you who suggest beating him or suing him: That's exactly what he wants! Seriously, people. Get a clue.

Posted by: branciforte3241 | March 2, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Now days so many people try to use the second amendment as authorization to say, OR DO, anything they want. We, including the Supreme court, should consider what the writer's of our constitution really intended. Can anyone believe those people would have thought it acceptable to cause all the additional grief possible at a funeral? Sure, the Phelps Cult has a right to express their opinions, but NOT at any time and place they choose. Let them do it miles from a military funeral and on a different day. If they merely want to express their opinion, that should be just as good for them.

Posted by: meamjw | March 2, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Ugly is being much too kind, Jonathan.

Posted by: knippd | March 2, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

When I read the Supreme Courts decision I was sick. These soldiers who give the ultimate sacrafice should be honored not picketed.
The Court needs to consider what they have done; they have told this nation that Free Speech trumps everything else.
Take a look at what free speech has taken away:
dignity, pursuit of happiness, right to privacy, freedom from oppresion
Another comment on this subject said these are hate crimes, Phelps doesn't commit hate crimes he commits crimes of STUPIDITY.

Posted by: jmonahan1 | March 2, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry we will take care of them. One by one we will dig a hole, and then one will be gone. Then another, and another. The Teamsters way, when the Supremes can't do their jobs, like Clarence never speaking for five years. We will fix this, we always have haven't we?

Posted by: sorcerer3213 | March 2, 2011 7:26 PM | Report abuse

I wish someone would twitter in about 20,000 people to attend the Westboro Baptist Church's Easter service. They seem to miss the point of Christianity all together.

Posted by: wonderingstevie | March 2, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Fred Phelps doesn't know his Bible. Sodom wasn't condemned for homosexuality.

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." -- Ezekiel 16:49

So it turns out that Fred Phelps is an idiot, and Conservatives are the true Sodomites!

Posted by: mraabe | March 2, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

This is a true disgrace, that we as a country would allow these people to dishonor the hero's who protect the constitution which they hide behind. I don't care 11 of his 13 children are lawyers, I challenge them to come to the state of Rhode Island and I'll show them how the Italians take care of rats.

Posted by: Vinny3 | March 2, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Right to be "ugly?" How about evil, cruel, hateful, disgusting, uber-rude, or any number of synonyms?

Posted by: MadamDeb | March 2, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I am afraid I have to agree with Mr. Capehart and the Supreme Court. However, the Westboro Baptist Church is aiding the enemy. It is damaging the image of the Christian faith. There is no Commandment against homosexuality, no matter what we feel about it individually. However Paul did write: "for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." 1 Thess 4:9 and: "Judge not that ye be not judged." John 7:24

Posted by: gerybarker | March 2, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Saddest part of all of this, is the kids in that family. They'll grow up taking this all in, believing in earnest that it's right, without knowing any better. Sad for them is people and sad for the perpetuation machine.

Posted by: dalevitt | March 2, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

to airwalker82: Listen Genius, this IS an opinion piece, not a news report.

Posted by: lbjack | March 2, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

The fact that these people exist, and use "God" in their protests, makes me not believe in "God". Because if "God" really did exist, he would put out their stinking life like a pail of water on a lump of burning cow pie.

Posted by: getjiggly2 | March 2, 2011 7:32 PM | Report abuse

first god created idiots, that was just for practice. then he created supreme court justices.

Posted by: bobpistrami | March 2, 2011 7:33 PM | Report abuse

The fact that these people exist, and use "God" in their protests, makes me not believe in "God". Because if "God" really did exist, he would put out their stinking life like a pail of water on a lump of burning cow pie.

Posted by: getjiggly2 | March 2, 2011 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Isn't Christianity lovely? Zero different from their Islamic colleagues.

Posted by: DamOTclese | March 2, 2011 7:33 PM | Report abuse

This is a stupid example of Supreme Court defense of evil, which they do routinely. I suggest this to exterminate the vermin who are the westboro baptist church. This is based upon the concept that it is totally impossible for any human being to be so hateful as to attack a funeral of a US Soldier. That means the members of the westboro baptist church are not humans, but rather like rats, cockroaches, and disease carrying germs need to be exterminated!!!
Here is how we can exterminate the Westboro Baptist vermin.
All people who despise these non human vermin rats and cockroaches must band together and say they will never have ANY deal with a piece of garbage from the Westboro Baptist Church!!
Now I'm going to really stick my neck out.
I'm a retired doctor, a graduate of Yale Medical School. I urge ALL US doctors to refuse medical treatment to members of the
Westboro Baptist Church. When those vermin try to get you to treat them, REFUSE!!!
Hopefully the members of the westboro baptist church will die like the good for nothing cockroaches and stinking rats that they are!!!!~!

Posted by: Privatefrank | March 2, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

I find it interesting that most of you have attacked Phelps (which is fine) for using, in your words, hate speech and yet condone your own hate speech as free speech.

I believe the church and the family are wrong but as a retired Marine I still support their right to express themselves even if their expressions imply they are morons and idiots.

Posted by: thjplgvp | March 2, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

The answer is very, very simple: Have your funeral on private property. Treat anyone who trespasses on private property exactly the same way as any other trespassing situation. End of story.

Posted by: james0tucson | March 2, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight. This so called church is mad that gay people exist, so they started protesting at funerals of people who had died of AIDS. Then they started protesting at funerals of US servicemen because... gays were not allowed to serve openly in the military but were allowed to serve if they didn't tell. They protest at these funerals regardless of the sexual orientation of the fallen soldier. I also heard they were out protesting at the funeral of a police officer, the reasoning? Who knows? The logical conclusion: The Westboro Baptist "church" consists of people who live in a country where gay people are allowed to exist. Therefore, the Westboro Baptist church should stand out front of their own building, protesting themselves at themselves!

Posted by: sam38 | March 2, 2011 7:50 PM | Report abuse

The church is headquartered in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Topeka about three miles west of the Kansas State Capitol at 3701 West 12th Street, Topeka, Kansas, United States.

Just in case anyone want to know

Posted by: kotchg2074 | March 2, 2011 8:03 PM | Report abuse

The church is headquartered in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Topeka about three miles west of the Kansas State Capitol at 3701 West 12th Street, Topeka, Kansas, United States.

Just in case anyone want to know

Posted by: kotchg2074 | March 2, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

What's sad is these pukes are indoctrinating the children in the family to believe this garbage, and bringing them to their "protests". Sooner or later, there will be violence, and their children may suffer. I can't say I will shed a tear for the adults, however.

Posted by: 82ndairborne | March 2, 2011 8:14 PM | Report abuse

God is anti-gay. So are you Socialists saying God is ugly? Just answer me. Are you saying God is ugly or not? Say it out loud. Let's all hear you doom yourself for eternity.

Posted by: NativeCowboy | March 2, 2011 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I am a Christian & appalled @ this kind of behavior! These people are not a good example of Christianity, so don't judge our beliefs by their actions. Some take the Bible & use it, mistakenly, as a weapon. If they truly practiced what they preached they would realize people don't have the right to judge others. Just ask one of these fools to point out where,in the Bible, Christ states homosexuality is a sin. They couldn't because He didn't say anything remotely like that. Anyone that acts in this hateful manner is ignorant & deserves our anger & pity, Christian or athiest!

Posted by: htpatty | March 2, 2011 8:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm just guessing that this "church" wouldn't pass the smell test from the IRS that they truly are a church. To be a church, you can't have "closed door" services ... and you can't relegate your church to ONLY your family. I'm also guessing that our Supreme Court would have GREAT trouble allowing the screaming, chanting, vile acting Westboro Church to come within their premises during ANY of their deliberations. OK for the goose, but NOT for the Gander?!!

Posted by: dominik_12 | March 2, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Yep, th' Westboro people are bad, an' th' Supreme Court don't seem much better, but, folks on this board, seem t' have some commonalities, with both groups, in that they seem overly vengeful and possessed of a below average level of intelligence!!! ~ Does every right need to be exercised, just because one has th' right t' do so???

Posted by: ArbuckleDoc | March 2, 2011 8:50 PM | Report abuse

kotchg2074 posted: The church is headquartered in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Topeka about three miles west of the Kansas State Capitol at 3701 West 12th Street, Topeka, Kansas, United States.

Brings to mind the book by Thomas Frank, "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America." The typical Kansan cultural conservative may not be in the same category as Phelps and his gang, but surely the difference is in degree, not in kind.

Posted by: J_B_A | March 2, 2011 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Uh uh uh... Tisk, Tisk, Tisk mraabe...
Now, if we are going to GO THERE and QUOTE BIBLE PASSAGE let us not be "deceptive" and "slight" scripture to "fit" our own purposes. You quoted Ezekiel 16:49 and stated that God destroyed Sodom for not being "Sodomites" (i.e., "homosexual" and "sexual perversions") because VERSE 49 points out as you clearly state:

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." --

*** BUT *** YOU FAILED TO COMPLETE VERSE 50 WHICH ALSO STATES ON SODOM:

"And they were haughty, and [HERE YOU GO...] committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good."

So, let's not play games here. The fact of the matter is this... Westboro In my Opinion as a CHRIST JESUS BELIEVER IS NOT WALKING IN THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD. Why? Well, let us look at the FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT (love, joy, peace, temperance, long-suffering) AND... THE WORD OF GOD (THE HOLY BIBLE) Clearly says that as TRUE CHRIST JESUS FOLLOWERS we are NOT TO STRIVE WITH OTHERS.

But, WIN them over with our GOOD CONVERSATION. So, that is what makes Westboro WRONG and TOTALLY OUT OF THE WILL OF GOD. However, that does NOT NEGATE that GOD is not ALSO calling Homosexuals to REPENTANCE and to be a LIVING SACRIFICE , HOLY & ACCEPTABLE UNTO GOD.

But, that is to be done in THE TRUTH & LOVE OF WHOM JESUS CHRIST IS and WANTS TO BE to the Homosexual. Only Love and Truth of GOD'S WORD can break Homosexuality.

Remember, JESUS CHRIST says HIS WORD is a TWO-EDGED SWORD that means it cuts both ways! :)

Finally, on FREEDOM OF SPEECH... Yes, I agree the SUPREME COURT nailed it down 100% CORRECT.

I am BLACK. But, I would NEVER want to take away DAVID DUKE, OR KKK OR NEO-NAZI right to HATE ME, to SPEAK AGAINST ME or SPEW HATRED TOWARDS ME.

Why?

Because we have to learn to be BIG KIDS in this world. People have a GOD-GIVEN RIGHT TO HATE OTHERS, GOD SAYS IN HIS WORD PEOPLE EVEN HAVE THE RIGHT TO HATE HIM.

I do not care if a person HATES me, because I KNOW THAT I AM LOVED. :) So, who cares? But, to STOP one's FREEDOM to speak their heart and mind (even if it is dark or evil) ONLY NEGATES your OWN ability to SPEAK FREELY your heart and mind.

NOT EVERYONE WILL AGREE WITH EVERYONE'S BELIEFS and guess what? EVERYONE IS ENTITLED and SHOULD, I say AGAIN **SHOULD** be entitled.

So, as long as a person does NOT touch me, or think to lay hands on me... So? Big deal.

They are entitled. So, I think our Justices approached THE DECISION from the MOST MATURE POSITION.

Remember, MLK and BLACK CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS did NOT "fight" to STOP others from "calling them names" or "force others to accept them."

THE TRUE CIVIL RIGHTS FIGHT was built on this... HATE ME, DON'T STOP ME. HATE ME, DON'T HURT ME. HATE ME, DON'T HINDER ME.

And, that is TRUE FREEDOM, you don't have to LIKE ME, shucks HATE ME, just don't mess with me! :)

Posted by: LPATWILLFILM | March 2, 2011 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Well, if someone beats the crap out of those protestors, and gets charged for it, this juror will say "not guilty."

Posted by: Thinker1 | March 2, 2011 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for providing the link to the written Supreme Court opinion itself. Yours was the only article on this subject I found that did so.

I find it is usually better to peruse original sources in order to form my opinion on the issue.

Posted by: sdk3 | March 2, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Here's something I do not understand in this nation.

We scream to give us our constitutional rights, but if you put things into perspective as to when these constitutional rights were written, then it makes a huge difference as to how the constitution would be perceived.

In this case, would Colonial Americans tolerate a feral organization such as this? I answer no, it would not be tolerated, in fact it would likely be met with great physical retribution and the religious leaders and their followers would be forced to cease their actions.

In relation to another popular amendment, the 2nd, I heard a similiar example from Bill Maher, Bill said (and I para-phrase): "fine let them keep their "muskett loaders" because there were no semiautomatic weapons back then." In a word, your 2nd Amendment rights extend up to a ball loader weapon.

I understand that the constitution is a living document and thank god for the sensible people that changed the way we view an individuals freedom (although there are fringe groups in the US that would change this too). In this case, there should have been an epiphany from the Supreme Court. They could have said that religions have the right to WORSHIP not pickett or berate others. They crossed the line when they started interferring with others right to happiness or in this case the right to grieve.

I think we've bent over backwards for religions too many times; all of them need to pay taxes, since when did any religious leader preach, build your churches with guilded walls and ornaments? Religions need to be behave as members of society; not harm others or the innocent.

Religion should be private, not blasted on every radio, television and internet outlet or be used to interfere with local and national politics. Religions need to start practicing what they preach and spread love and kindness not hatred and venom.

Phelps and his followers are wrong and we as Americans need to send a message to them that they need to stop. I like the idea of picketing their workplace and homes; after all, turnabout is fair play.

Posted by: spamizham | March 2, 2011 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh spamizham...

You want CHURCHES TO PAY TAXES???? OK, then are you ready to do away with SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE? You do NOT want CHURCH PROGRAMMING ON TV, RADIO OR WEB, but then can we do away with PLAYBOY CHANNEL? CINEMAX AT NIGHT? FREE-PORN SITES?

Look into the mirror and clearly see your OWN hypocrisy.

Again, you have a RIGHT TO HATE THE GOD-FEARING, CHURCHES, BIBLES, GOD-WORSHIPPERS, RELIGIONS, cool.

But, then practice what you PREACH, I bet if CHRISTIANS advocated to tear down WASHINGTON to put PRAYER BACK IN SCHOOL, you would have a hissy-fit, and SCREAM: "SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE!" OK, so then back off and stand down on Churches NOT PAYING TAXES.

Unless of course, you do NOT mind having CHURCHES to INFLUENCE YOUR GOVERNMENT. :)

I bet, if every CHRISTIAN PROTESTED to pull PLAYBOY CHANNEL OFF THE AIR OR DR. RUTH OFF THE RADIO you would SCREAM: "FREEDOM OF SPEECH! NO CENSORSHIP!"

OK, then, so if you believe these sources have RIGHT, don't be a BIG BABY and attempt to undermine the RIGHTS OF OTHERS with whom you HATE and DISAGREE, i.e., "Believers" and "Those of Faith."

The problem is, MOST AMERICANS like you, gotta learn TO GROW UP!

I aspire to BE A LITTLE MORE LIKE JESUS EVERY DAY to be a TRUE SERVANT OF CHRIST JESUS, but...

I would NOT ever say that the LATE ANTON LEVAY OR SATANISTS, OR OTHER "WORSHIPPERS" OR EVEN ATHEISTS OR AGNOSTICS should NOT have their little publications, shows, programs, etc.

Although I CLEARLY DESPISE IT and LOATHE IT and it goes AGAINST MY CORE BELIEFS, yet, to do that against them (to shut them up, shut them down) is to do that to MYSELF and every BIBLE BELIEVER and SAINT.

You gotta wake up and grow up!

You can't have it BOTH WAYS...
FREEDOM IS A TWO-WAY STREET.

It is NOT just there for the things you AGREE with, APPROVE and FAVOR.

No, no friend...

FREEDOM IS THERE FOR THE THINGS YOU ALSO HATE, DISAPPROVE, DISAGREE and hold DISGUST and CONTEMPT.

But, it is also putting yourself in the OTHER MAN'S SHOES!

There are PEOPLE WHOM HATE JESUS CHRIST, HATE THE BIBLE, HATE THE CHURCH and if they could would WIPE OUT EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER...

I know this. So, the LAW that PROTECTS ME from these types, must ALSO be there to PROTECT OTHERS from "types" that would do the same to them.

Freedom is NOT like HIGH SCHOOL USA, where you try to get everybody to go along with "peers" and "get into the cliques" and "cool groups" OR get everybody to "like you" "fit in" and "punish those whom don't."

THAT'S HIGH SCHOOL, KID'S STUFF!

FREEDOM IS THERE TO PROTECT ALL -- THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND WE ALL ARE PERCEIVED [BY SOMEBODY ELSE] TO BE GOOD, BAD AND UGLY.

For what is good and right to one man, may be evil and wrong to another.

FREEDOM PROTECTS ALL REGARDLESS.

THAT IS WHAT REAL FREEDOM IS!!!! :)

SO, LET IT RING!

LET IT RING FOR THE SINNER :)
LET IT RING FOR THE SAINT! :)

GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!

Posted by: LPATWILLFILM | March 2, 2011 9:55 PM | Report abuse

spamizham posted: We scream to give us our constitutional rights, but if you put things into perspective as to when these constitutional rights were written, then it makes a huge difference as to how the constitution would be perceived. In this case, would Colonial Americans tolerate a feral organization such as this? I answer no, it would not be tolerated, in fact it would likely be met with great physical retribution and the religious leaders and their followers would be forced to cease their actions.
___________

You raise a good point, spamizham, but the answer is, it really doesn't matter what Colonial Americans would have tolerated, for a least two reasons. First, Colonial American lived around 300 years before the US Constitution was drafted.

Second, the US Constitution means whatever it is construed to mean by living persons. For example, during World War I, Americans were routinely criminal prosecuted under laws that prohibited "sedition" -- what we would now consider to be free speech -- and the US Supreme Court upheld the laws and convictions, notwithstanding the plain words of the First Amendment prohibiting laws that abridge "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press." I could give a multitude of other examples in which the Constitution has been interpreted in radically different ways at different times in history.

It is precisely because the Constitution means whatever it is construed to mean by living persons -- not necessarily what the founders' intended -- that it matters so much who sits on the United States Supreme Court.

BTW, I personally agree with the Court's decision in this case, as I do with past decisions allowing groups like American Nazi's to express their views. In the long run, it is best not to force these miscreants underground, and freedom of speech is too important to permit the Phelp's of this world to undermine it with their execrable conduct.

Posted by: J_B_A | March 2, 2011 9:57 PM | Report abuse

I understand it , but it's too bad that common sense and decency are not a part of American law and justice . So native cowboy , you are saying that God , that Christ , would approve of Phelps and that this is how Christ would would act if he were here ? Unbelievable . Having read your post I can only say that it is no wonder that the Republican party is still in business even after what they did to this country under Bush / Cheney . Phelps and his gang are sick and despicable people , anything but true Christians , it's a shame that they can reproduce and brainwash their innocent and defenseless young into this cult , the adults among them will be in for a big shock when they go to meet their maker .

Posted by: Koom | March 2, 2011 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Manwolf wrote " This ruling doesn't mean that the USA is a great country , it means that the USA is comprised of a very dysfunctional, soulless culture." You are right Manwolf .

Posted by: Koom | March 2, 2011 10:59 PM | Report abuse

OK, so can AMERICANS, MARCH AROUND THE WHITE HOUSE carrying signs that reads GOD HATES AMERICA that is why we have a commie in the WHITE HOUSE? Or president OBAMA is NOT AN AMERICAN CITIZEN<.IMPEACH OBAMA he is a SOCIALIST DICTATOR. Isn;t tat OUR FREEDOM OF SPEECH?

Posted by: itscc721 | March 2, 2011 11:21 PM | Report abuse

@chicoandtheman2001, reliable source (NY Times, Wall Street Journal url) for your Al Gore claim, please.

Posted by: lesfab29 | March 2, 2011 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Koom: Manwolf wrote " This ruling doesn't mean that the USA is a great country , it means that the USA is comprised of a very dysfunctional, soulless culture." You are right Manwolf .
_______

With respect, I disagree. It is precisely because we hate Phelps's speech so much that it follows that USA is a great nation for recognizing his freedom to express it. To me, it's like the flag burning issue. It is precisely because the flag stands for the right to burn the flag (as an act of free speech) that I revere the flag so much. If the flag did not stand for this freedom, what darn good would it be, and who would care a fig about it?

Posted by: J_B_A | March 2, 2011 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Say anything, fine. do anything CRIME. Why is this hard to understand? Verbal assault is a crime. It is assault.

Posted by: techstyle | March 2, 2011 11:28 PM | Report abuse

The specific meaning of assault varies between countries, but can refer to an act that causes another to apprehend immediate and personal violence, or in the more limited sense of a threat of violence caused by an immediate show of force. (Wikipedia)

Hateful speech, without more, is not "assault." However hateful it is, to utter it is not a crime in the absence of action that fits the definition of "threat of violence caused by an immediate show of force."

Posted by: J_B_A | March 3, 2011 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Judging by the photo, these "church" people are their own rebuttal. In that sense, the more publicity the better.

Posted by: daphne5 | March 3, 2011 1:02 AM | Report abuse

Glad to see freedom of speech upheld once again.

Congrats WBC!!

Posted by: Rubiconski | March 3, 2011 1:54 AM | Report abuse

Just one question:

Why where the protesters at the G20 conference in Pittsburgh not afforded the same First Amendment rights??

Guess the elite have different laws!!

Posted by: bkarpus | March 3, 2011 5:04 AM | Report abuse

Wow, I never thought about it like that before.

www.Privacy-Web.tk

Posted by: clermontpc | March 3, 2011 6:13 AM | Report abuse

There is hope for you yet, Mr. Capehart. Perhaps someday you will come to accept that other elements of the Constitution apply to people who disagree with you.

Posted by: krush01 | March 3, 2011 6:13 AM | Report abuse

If these wackos gathered in front of your house and spewed their venom you'd be the first one to call the police Mr Capehart.... but then they would have the right to do this because you are gay....they have the right to call you ugly names..its not hate speech is it Mr Capehart ? It doesnt matter that none of these dead soldiers were gay ..the Supreme Court allows the dead to be demonized in the name of free hate filled speech.... this decision is one of their worst. We now allow gays in the military and we now allow gays to be called all kinds of vile names at military funerals...kind of contradicts itself Mr Capehart ???

Alito was the only one with any common sense..the other 8 members need to be removed from their lofty positions..

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | March 3, 2011 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Since the "protests" are based, it seems, solely on an interpretation of the Christian Bible, isn't protecting the right to protest in this way a not-so-subtle government support of a particular religion?
Is the First Amendment in conflict with itself in this case?

Posted by: GeneTouchet | March 3, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

NOW IS THE TIME TO GET AS MUCH DIRT ON THESE PEOPLE AND SHOW UP WHERE THE WILL BE NEXT AND PROTEST THEM WITH GRAPHIC POSTERS !! THERE IS SURE TO BE SOMETHING THAT REALLY DISTURBS THEM.

Posted by: betheloveyouare | March 3, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

The fact that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church stand squarely on the side of hate and intolerance does not, alas, negate their right to make themselves hated by almost everyone. That they exercise this right by inflicting further pain on the bereaved is awful, and I applaud those people who form a living barricade between the bereaved and this group of hatemongers. However, the best possible defense against them is to completely ignore them -- no media coverage, no engagement, nothing. Smile, pray for them, comfort the suffering, and leave them be. In the meantime, we can all be pleased that when Mr. Phelps himself passes, his funeral can be picketed by those who stand for love, tolerance, and an end to hate. Heck. I'll even send flowers.

Posted by: brideyfearn | March 3, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

""America is doomed for its acceptance of homosexuality," according to an undated pamphlet quoted by the Southern Poverty Law Center. "If God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for going after fornication and homosexuality then why wouldn't God destroy America for the same thing?"

THIS MAY BE TRUE-BUT THE "UN-CHRISTIAN" METHODS BY THESE JERKS IS NOT THE METHOD OF WARNING. USING OUR "RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH" WE NEED TO WRITE, CALL, AND ELECTRONICALLY LET EVERY POLITICIAN AND LAW GIVER KNOW THAT WE WILL NOT STAND FOR FIATS THAT FORCE SODOMY ON OUR CHILDREN AND HOMES. A VOTE OF THE PEOPLE IS ALL WE NEED!

Posted by: lyn3 | March 3, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

The United States is a great country precisely becuase we allow these vile individuals to spew their hateful political rhetoric (subject to reasonable limits respecting private property, public nuisance and noise laws). We then allow our citizens to evaluate the claims of this vile group in the marketplace of ideas. That is the very meaning of free speech.

Posted by: whyyesbrain | March 3, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Sooner or latter we all die, including these westboro losers. Can't wait to see who shows up at their funerals.

Posted by: ALLOST | March 3, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I think the spirit of the First amendment was to protect spirited and robust debate on the issues of national interest. US wars are legitimate issues but that need to be debated on some other forums; not on the funeral sites of the fallen soldiers. I’m against many of the wars that US waged but I will let the family bury their loved ones with dignity.

Posted by: raihanshafiq | March 3, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

If the public is outraged at the Phelps people and their protest, it can be fixed under the SCt decision. Large signs can surround the Phelps people and prevent anyone else from seeing them, and the presence of said signs is now protected by the SCt. I am sure some vets can organize 20-25 people and put together some 4x8 ft signs to wall off the Phelps people from anyone else seeing them.

Posted by: Arce1 | March 3, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

RELIGION, and religious pretenders, are at the base of everything that is bad in the world.

Ponder this for a few seconds ...

Posted by: lilhornie | March 3, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives should love this verdict...it upholds the Constitution

Liberals should love this verdict.......a simple review of public nastiness in this century and the last would show that the left needs this most

Posted by: georgedixon1 | March 3, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

This really is the right decision. If you get past the ugly rhetoric, and look at the WAY the Church is picketing, you'll see they are staying inside the boundaries of the law.

Also, they also said they pinpointed military funerals because they act as "pep rallies" for the Greatness of America. I come at it from a different point-of-view, but I also am concerned with the jingoism and patriotism people wear on their sleeve. Like after 9/11, if you didn't have a flag sticker on your car, you were seen as hating America, and I have a problem with that (not that it's any way similar to why this so-called Church is picketing).

In the end, the problem is religion (always has, always will be). When you drill it in people's heads to believe their version of the Truth, when in all actuality all this religious stuff is made up anyway, you have wackos like these who think they are right. Decrease the amount of religiosity in the country and you'll increase the amount of intelligence, cooperation and understanding.

Posted by: sachancp | March 3, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

The "discourse" of the Phelps/Westboro crowd is pretty incoherent. They believe that the deaths of US soldiers are somehow related to an increasing societal acceptance of homosexuality, but they can't explain how God expects these deaths to bring about the results they seek--whatever those results really are.

But like the attempted assassination of Representative Gabbie Giffords, this ruling calls our attention to the stridency and inflexibility that characterizes much political discourse these days. People must find some way to stifle stridency and inflexibility while allowing ideas to flow freely. We all need to demand it of our politicians, and we need to turn our backs on it when we encounter it.

Posted by: jlhare1 | March 3, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

what next. why not nterrupt hir next c.hurch would that not be a hoot?

Posted by: wendywac | March 3, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

"It is amazing how many people here would have thought calling President Bush any name in the book was OK. "
Posted by: ne3l_ham | March 2, 2011 7:14 PM | Report abuse

____________________________________

Um.... ever heard some of things they call Obama 'round here?

Posted by: Patzer111 | March 3, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

The Supreme Court got it right. These are terrible people but they have every right to BE terrible and voice their opinions.

Others have every right to form a living sound barrier or physical blockade. The only good thing about this group is that they can't be everywhere and they generally announce their intentions.

For what it is worth, I'm GLAD that they show their faces rather than hiding behind white sheets or something. I want to KNOW who they are so I can avoid them and so can my children and other family members.


As for the Baptist part, this was put up on the 10th of January www.abc-usa.org:

Westboro Baptist Church and Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, are in the news again. Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, is not and never has been an American Baptist. Phelps’ ordination is not in an American Baptist church, and his credentials have never been recognized by any region of ABCUSA. Additionally, Westboro is in no way affiliated with American Baptist Churches, USA. Westboro is an independent, non-affiliated church.

In light of the increased media attention focused upon the Westboro Church of Topeka, KS, American Baptists want to be clear that we denounce their message and tactics of hate. It grieves us that in bearing the Baptist name they destroy the reputation of thousands of Baptists who daily give themselves in selfless acts of love as followers of Jesus.

“You will know them by their fruits,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:16.

The hostile, angry confrontations created by Phelps and his followers are an embarrassment to the Gospel and the church. Hopefully, American Baptists will distance themselves from ministers like Phelps, not only by words, but by deeds.

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Posted by: Skowronek | March 3, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

The supreme court was right not to restrict the rights of 300 million in response to the actions of 20.

Posted by: Please_Fix_VAs_Roads | March 3, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Re - Taxation of Churches. I don't approve of it. However, churches can lose their tax exempt status by violating certain rules outlined in form 1023 of the IRS. (Not for profit organizations)

Specifically:
Form 1023. Your organization must file its application for recognition of exemption on Form 1023. See chapter 1 and the instructions accompanying Form 1023 for the procedures to follow in applying. Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023. These are discussed later in this section.

Form 1023 and accompanying statements must show that all of the following are true.

1.

The organization is organized exclusively for, and will be operated exclusively for, one or more of the purposes (religious, charitable, etc.) specified in the introduction to this chapter.
2.

No part of the organization's net earnings will inure to the benefit of private shareholders or individuals. You must establish that your organization will not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator's family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests.
3.

The organization will not, as a substantial part of its activities, attempt to influence legislation (unless it elects to come under the provisions allowing certain lobbying expenditures) or participate to any extent in a political campaign for or against any candidate for public office. See Political activity, next, and Lobbying Expenditures , near the end of this chapter.

Political activity. If any of the activities (whether or not substantial) of your organization consist of participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, your organization will not qualify for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3). Such participation or intervention includes the publishing or distributing of statements.

Whether your organization is participating or intervening, directly or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each case. Certain voter education activities or public forums conducted in a nonpartisan manner may not be prohibited political activity under section 501(c)(3), while other so-called voter education activities may be prohibited.

Note Section 2.

Posted by: MichelleKinPA | March 3, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

They're only picketing military funerals now because they weren't getting enough attention picketing "only" the funerals of gay men, gay pride events, etc. They're getting exactly what they want--publicity and outrage. And, because they're all lawyers, they know exactly how far they can go without breaking the law.

They're reprehensible, but I think our only real recourse is to ignore them.

Posted by: lizgwiz | March 3, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

After reading your headline/link on the main Opinion page, I fully expected a denunciation of the Court's ruling and was glad to see you agree with it as a matter of principle.

It wasn't so long ago in our nation, after all, that the "popular majority view" would have held that the views of an African-American homosexual (though I doubt seriously they would have phrased it that way) were inappropriate for publication in a "mainstream" newspaper.

There's no such thing as "your" rights and "my" rights when it comes to civil liberties. As reprehensible as I find Phelps and his behavior, government cannot silence him without quieting us all.

Posted by: Ralphinjersey | March 3, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

moksha-4all:
"I hope the Phelps family holds one of their demonstrations in the Seattle area. I'll be in attendance with my baseball bat. A few missing kneecaps should slow them down a bit."

Hope you enjoy your assault and battery charge.

Just ignore them. Walk through their picket line like it was an inconvenient fog.

Posted by: presto668 | March 3, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

The Supreme Court was right in its decision, otherwise, more Leftist legislators might have begun drafting "Hate Speech" legislation immediately as a way to muzzle their political opponents.

The solution to the funeral picketing is the recognize that cemeteries are privately owned (most of them, anyway) and the owners can simply block obnoxious folks from attending, the same as you can show someone the door in your home.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | March 3, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Yes they have the right to be ugly. Just like people have the right to burn flags. Yes it sucks to hear them say what they say, but our constitution is bigger than that.

Posted by: GC4Life | March 3, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Yes they have the right to be ugly. Just like people have the right to burn flags. Yes it sucks to hear them say what they say, but our constitution is bigger than that.

Posted by: GC4Life | March 3, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

If what that stupid little church group does is OK, then would it be OK for me to get a group together and carry signs outside the UN that said Mohammed is a terrorist?

I think that they should get absolutely no news coverage and sane people should line the funeral route blocking them from view of the mourners.

Posted by: tenshi1 | March 3, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

seems to me that only one supreme court justice has enough common sense to get in out of the rain.
does this mean that the kkk could celebrate the death of an innercity gangbanger with obnoxious signs and be within his or her rights? could religious buildings be picketed by atheists? by other religious groups?
might be a good time for people to start minding their own business.

Posted by: wrwp123 | March 3, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I feel pretty sure that probably 99% of America has utter disdain for this Westboro Church clan. But, an interesting fact is that, here in America, you can always find people to believe or go along with any negative, racist, blasphemous, backward, pornographic, illegal or highly ridiculous plan you can come with. Some of us are always looking for someone to call "leader".

Posted by: bestowens | March 3, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

the right to be ugly is right, have you seen these people, fat inbred men and woment, tons of fun.

Posted by: calif-joe | March 3, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

The bitter, cruel irony is that Lance Cpl. Phelps died defending these idiots' rights to picket his funeral.

Posted by: LMF1 | March 3, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"If God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for going after fornication and homosexuality then why wouldn't God destroy America for the same thing?"
Westboro pamphlet

The thing is, their logic is flawless, if you believe the Bible. The Bible does indeed say that these cities were destroyed for that lifestyle.

Doesn't it say that? Yes it does.

So all those Christians who dislike the Westboro Baptist Church are really just hiding from the logic, from the clear message, of their own Holy Book.

The real lesson is: the Bible is a nasty old book full of garbage, that shouldn't be taken seriously, except as a rather unreliable historical document from the 1st millenium BC Near East.

Posted by: JenDray | March 3, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm very saddened to read to many comments in support of yesterday's decision. A few comments of my own:

1. I think that anyone who warns about the horrible things that happen as a result of placing any limits on free speech should be obligated to provide actual examples of horrible things that are actually happening in other countries as a result of limitations on free speech. Since the United States has maybe the most libertarian view of free speech of any country in the world, there should be examples in every other country, including all Western democracies such as Canada and those in Western Europe, to choose from. In fact, the United States should be the ONLY country in which horrible things are NOT happening, including, presumably, being the only country in which people are not being jailed for criticizing the government. So, unless you really believe that the United States is the only free country in the world, apparently it's possible to pull off the feat of being a free country without allowing hateful protests at funerals.

Furthermore, these countries ban hate speech EVERYWHERE. We're not even talking about banning hate speech everywhere in this case. We're talking about banning it AT FUNERALS!!! It's like some people think that the fact that these protests are taking place at the funerals of fallen soldiers is somehow immaterial. I don't think, and apparently Samuel Alito doesn't think, it is. Bottom line -- even when it comes to free speech, I don't buy that a country can't be free unless everybody can do exactly what they want to do exactly how they want to do it when they want to do it and where they want to do it.

2. The reality is, the First Amendment was written by slave owners. That's not my opinion -- it's a fact. Maybe the First Amendment protects this type of speech. Maybe it doesn't. Either way, though, I've never been into this notion of the Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) as holy scripture. We're in our own times now, and perhaps we should be deciding things based on the realities and values of our time, not theirs.

3. I assume ALL of you who defend this decision were also 100% on board with the Citizens United decision. Unless your position is "you can NEVER make an exception when it comes to free speech. Unless it involves corporations." I hope you see the contradiction there.

4. I also assume that ALL of you who defend this decision are against any form of gun control. Unless "no law means no law" but "shall not be infringed" does not mean "shall not be infringed." For any of you who are NOT entirely pro gun, how is what you are doing any different? The NRA takes a fundamentalist stance on the Second Amendment, while you're taking a fundamentalist stance on the First. But it's still fundamentalism.

5. The slippery slope can go the other way, too. If really anything goes, I guess we should just legalize child pornography while we're at it?

Posted by: MarkT4 | March 3, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

It's ironic that other Baptists don't disassociate themselves from Westboro because it hates gays, but only because it's mean to soldiers.

If Westboro was merely hating on gays, it would be a normal part of the mainstream Baptist community.

Westboro is not part of the mainstream Baptist community because mainstream American Baptism demands not only that you hate gays, but also that you worship all things military.

Posted by: JenDray | March 3, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Free speech is all very well, but has it no boundaries? Where does free speech end and harassment begin? Or the intentional infliction of anguish? The law may condone, but must the rules of decent behavior toward other human beings be disregarded? I hope not.

This country's laws are both flawed and insufficient because they take no note of human emotions. Therefore, the decisions of our courts, including the one called "supreme", will always fall short of real justice.

I am not religious, but this, from the Book of Common Prayer,
is appropriate for Fred Phelps and for the majority of the justices;

From all blindness of heart ... from envy, hatred, and malice, and from all uncharitableness, Good Lord deliver us.


Posted by: bookmark | March 3, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

The Phelps family almost makes want to believe in god just so I can be comforted by the thought of their eternal torment.

Posted by: MidwaySailor76 | March 3, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

The Phelps family almost makes me want to believe in god, just so I can be comforted by the thought of their eternal torment.

Posted by: MidwaySailor76 | March 3, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I wonder why its okay to censor speech when it speaks against religion but allow speech when it arises out of religious beliefs.

Posted by: Ali8 | March 3, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

The courts have decided that you effectively can not kick anyone out of a political party. Anyone can run for a Democratic Nomination or a Republican one. President Obama could enter the Republican Primaries if he so desired. Shara could run as Democratic Candidate if she wanted to.
Just like when the Republicans could not kick out David Duke (former KKK head), the Democrats can not kick out mr Phelps. I promise you if he runs, Plenty of Democrats will show up to protest, and the leadership will be all over his case if he comes close to winning.

It would be insane to believe Mr Phelps ideas bear any relation to the Democratic Party, and in fact I suspect no one on Earth thinks they do.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | March 3, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

If you want them to go away, quit paying attention. Have Blocking protests to keep them unseen and unheard and then encourage the press to ignore them. Then they either go away or it doesn't matter.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | March 3, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Gonna have to go with alito, cannot believe it.

If you can ban video game sales to minors, for mature content, then you can limit expression in some extreme cases. This seems to be one of them.

Posted by: docwhocuts | March 3, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

It's simple: If you give the government permission to censor THEM, you are giving the government permission to censor YOU. Court made the right decision.

That said, I wouldn't shed a tear if some misguided private citizen took it upon himself to discourage these bigots using any means available.

Posted by: Bugs3 | March 3, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Bugs3. Just not buying it. This almost seems to assume that there are only two models of free speech: the American ultra-libertarian model, or the North Korean model. In reality, there is tremendous middle ground between those two models. Other countries, including our greatest allies, seem to have found that middle ground. Why can't we?

And, as I alluded to in my first comment, I guess you think we should legalize child pornography, right? After all, if you give government the right to censor child pornographers...

Posted by: MarkT4 | March 3, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

By the same token, Mexico is cursed for its failure to offer enough human hearts to Huitzilopotchli.

Posted by: Capn0ok1 | March 3, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

LaureninGlenBurnie - Good question; and NPR just published a piece on the church that goes into this. Turns out they seem to be getting most of it from their own law practice! :-D 11/13 of Fred Phelps's children have law degrees. ...

Posted by: kingpigeon | March 2, 2011 6:28 PM
______________________________________

You could have just stopped there.

Posted by: gbooksdc | March 3, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

In other words, the Court of Supreme Shame has determined that Sarah Clown and Annus Coultergheist have the right to roam free, no matter how ugly they are.

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Posted by: greensophia88 | March 3, 2011 9:54 PM | Report abuse

I posted two comments a bit earlier in the day. Just two more things that I thought of:

1. Who's to say that allowing this type of behavior makes the United States the freest country in the world? Look at the Netherlands, for example. There, unlike here, prostitution is legal, as is marijuana. Who's to say having that these freedoms doesn't make the Netherlands the freest country in the world? I guess if you measure freedom solely by the ability to take part in hateful protests at funerals, then yes, the United States is the freest country in the world. But who says that protesting at funerals IS the ultimate freedom? In fact, one could argue that hiring a prostitute or smoking marijuana has absolutely no negative impact on other people, while these acts of free speech do. Therefore, one could argue that the freedoms they have but we don't are much more harmless than the freedoms we have but they don't.

2. I have to wonder if the belief that free speech is the right that should supersede, or really even trounce, all other rights is truly based on rational and objective analysis -- comparing the relative merits and costs of free speech versus those other rights, as well as from examining the empirical evidence by comparing the actual results of America's model of free speech to the results of a slightly more restrictive model of free speech such as that which is in place in much of Europe -- or based on the fact that the "founding fathers" put it before all other rights, and many of us have a hard time dealing with the possibility that the founding fathers could have been wrong. That is, based on a belief that "if the founding fathers said that free speech is the ultimate right, it's the ultimate right." Looking at it another way, I have to wonder if had the Bill of Rights never been written, Americans would still have reached the same conclusion regarding free speech and its place among other rights. If the only reason we do believe that it’s the ultimate right is, in fact, because the founding fathers said so, then there’s a term for that -- the “appeal to authority fallacy.”

Posted by: MarkT4 | March 3, 2011 10:44 PM | Report abuse

When I returned from Vietnam, protesters were spitting on soldiers and calling them every vile name in the book. Now the Supreme court has officially spit on every soldier who has every worn the uniform of this country. Every parent in this country should use every means possible to prevent their children from entering the US armed forces until this despicable situation is resolved.

Posted by: Sanyon | March 4, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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