Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, or of the press . . .
The Bill of Rights is; for arguments' sake, an expression of the infinite powers that we, as citizens of the United States of America enjoy. We must nevertheless acknowledge and appreciate the fact that each of these rights and attendant privileges comes with some sort of responsibility, ergo: a limitation. That limitation is most often the conflicting right and/or privilege that is enjoyed by other U.S. citizens. When these rights and/or privileges are in direct conflict with each other the U.S. Supreme Court pulls out its really big blind scale of justice and balances the issues. It is an unfortunate circumstance that sometimes somebody has their finger on one side of the scale.
Judges make mistakes. I recall one time during a trial that I admitted evidence that I probably shouldn't have. The jury saved me by delivering the fair and just verdict despite the fact that they saw something they shouldn't have seen. As for the U.S. Supreme Court; I understand the ruling in the Westboro Baptist Church case Snyder v. Phelps and I am going to try to explain it, but that isn't going to make everything right. Nobody is going to save them for their mistake. Whatever it is worth; I am going to forward a copy of this blog to each of the Justices in what I will term a "Motion for Reconsideration" by a Friend of the Court.
The facts of the case are of little dispute. Westboro Baptist Church uses every available opportunity to use the Freedom of Speech to demonstrate its arguments regarding what it believes to be public issues. Its objective is to draw media attention to itself. It therefore chooses to picket near a soldier's funeral simply because that act is so morally reprehensible that it draws media attention. Either you will see their demonstration on the evening news or a local station will give them air time in consideration for their sacrificing the opportunity to demonstrate. Either way it is free publicity. They were going to picket the funeral of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green had it not been for free air-time offered on a local radio station.
Amazingly enough; some facts concerning this case are in "dispute" amongst the Supreme Court Justices. Chief Justice Roberts described the Westboro's demonstration as being peaceful and well-removed from the site of the funeral; approximately 1000 feet from the church and a reasonable distance from the cemetery. Justice Alito characterized it as "a public street in close proximity to the scene of a funeral . . ." I find these differences to be relatively meaningless because we are failing to see the forest for the trees.
Freedom of speech is an inalienable right, but it is tempered by some nuance of reason. We do not have the right to speak out of a bullhorn or amplified through speakers in front of someone's residence at 2:00 a.m. We do not have the right publish the names of minors accused of crimes because that will damage them personally more than the "benefit" that we may gain of learning those facts. There are many more limitations of Freedom of Speech that have a rational basis for existence.
Justice Alito agrees that "funerals are unique events at which special protection against emotional assaults is in order." This is my plea before the U.S. Supreme Court in concurrence with Justice Alito: A funeral is perhaps the most dignified ceremony that exists. To interfere with loving family members' and friends' opportunities to share their grief is not "Freedom of Speech"; it is a personal attack that does not even demand that the verbiage of the demonstration be specifically directed at any particular person. It is not speech and deserves no protection.
Freedom of Speech is infinite, but it has its limitations.