SCOTUS upholds speech rights of anti-gay 'church'
Sun colleague Tricia Bishop reports:
In a dispute that began at a Marine's funeral in Westminster, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the First Amendment allows the Westboro Baptist Church to peaceably picket military funerals with its hate-filled, anti-gay messages.
"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 G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the opinion of the court.
"On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker," he continued. "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."
The ruling, issued a day before the anniversary of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's death, was a bitter disappointment for the Marine's father, Albert Snyder, who sued the Topeka, Kansas, church for picketing his son's 2006 funeral, claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress. But it was expected by free speech advocates, who found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to align with a group that protests against gays, Catholics, Jews and others.