High court upholds outspoken church's right to protest
Shirley Phelps-Roper, right, and her daughter Megan of Westboro Baptist Church protest Tuesday in Hyattsville, Maryland.
March 2nd, 2011
10:29 AM ET

High court upholds outspoken church's right to protest

A Kansas church that attracted nationwide attention for its angry, anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. military members has won its appeal at the Supreme Court, an issue testing the competing constitutional limits of free speech and privacy.

The justices by a 8-1 vote on Wednesday said members of the Westboro Baptist Church had a right to promote what they call a broad-based message on public matters such as wars.

The father of a fallen Marine had sued the small church, saying those protests amounted to targeted harassment and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"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," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker."

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Filed under: Civil Rights • Courts • Gay and lesbian • Justice • Military • Protest • Religion • Supreme Court
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. bronz

    Free speech is one thing, and doing what is right is another. Way to let people dishonor those who died for their country, way to go.

    March 2, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ashley P

    I'm not really sure this is legal. What about the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act?


    March 2, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Elle

      Unfortunatley that only applies to national cemeteries like Arlington and not hometown burial sites. And, most families prefer that they are laid to rest closer to home.

      March 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashley P

      That sucks. It should apply to any military personnel, regardless of burial location.

      March 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • marrrbo

      What is the penalty for violation of this Act?

      March 3, 2011 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Matt B

    This church could careless about gay people, dead soldiers, or God. They do this all for the attention, and that attention brings them money in. How else would they support their farm complex? It's all for the money, and people will do anything for money: even hurt innocent people's feelings until they are broken down completely. It's a shame and disgusting.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Muhammad

    Remember what God did to the people of Lot. He is the same God today.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cindie

    What a travesty that these poor families don't already have enough suffering with the death of their loved one, but they have to be faced with this bunch of lunatics, too. I'm pretty sure that God promotes acceptance and peace, not exclusion and hate.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |

    As awful an hurtful as this church's statements have been, and I totally disagree with them, I think they are still covered by the freedom of speech. United States is the greatest place to stand on your believes and be protected. God bless the US.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mozzie

    if I ever go to a funeral for one of my family members( 8 in army and air force) and they have the gall to show up and say "thank God your brother/sister/uncle/husband/cousin is dead" then you can bet ill be doing some target practice while I grieve.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Scottish Mama

    Maybe when this minister, family, or one of the congregation dies all of the soldiers, patriot guards and the town should show up at their funerals.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Carlos

    If they don't want to stand behind our soldiers, then feel free to stand in front of them. God Bless our armed forces. "Proud son of a Korean War Veteran".

    March 2, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. simple solutions

    just take the entire gay army to the churches.. They have extra cookies and milk.. Just like the pope. They love to convert.. Love is the claim. Do you doubt them?

    March 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Nope

    These people are less than human. I sincerely hope they all die from dysentery and leave us all in peace.

    March 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MotherT

    I think those so called "church members" need to be sent to Afghanistan to deliver their message in person to our "live" soldiers. Of course, there is the good chance the "members" may not return. They will see first hand what those men and women go through to protect their "right" to free speech. Or, let them be first into Lybia and spread their "word". I don't recall Jesus ever acting like that. These people wouldn't know the meaning of "church" if it smacked them in the head.

    March 2, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sarah

    That is sick. Those people are not actually Christians and I hate that they call themselves that.

    March 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Suzanne

    This seems a gross mis- interpretation of the First Amendment
    One wonders what the Justices consider a " broad based message on public matters." I know just as many people who hold the opposite view from this "church." Are our voices not "broad based" enough?

    March 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sam

    HATE...............is of the DEVIL............................this is Ignorance..............Judge Not..that Ye be NOT JUDGED

    March 2, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
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