Today the US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that vile hate group Westboro Baptist Church has the legal right to continue their vile “God Hates Fags” protests at the funerals of US soldiers. It’s a court case that pits free speech against human decency, and free speech won out.
From the New York Times:
“Debate on public issues should be robust, uninhibited and wide-open,” [Chief Justice John Roberts] wrote, because “speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values.”
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that…while the messages on the signs carried by its members “may fall short of refined social or political commentary,” he wrote, “the issues they highlight — the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens, the fate of our nation, homosexuality in the military and scandals involving the Catholic clergy — are matters of public import.”
All of that means, the chief justice wrote, that the protesters’ speech “cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt.”
Look, WBC is so hideous that even the most homophobic conservative evangelicals look at WBC’s protests and rush to clarify: “Hey, I’m not with those guys—they’re fucked-up.” Unfortunately, the most fucked-up among us have the right to protest peacefully and make their views known, no matter how inflammatory, hateful, and disgusting those views may be.
The good news is that while WBC exhibits the the lowest possible form of free speech, you can always see the very best of free speech at the counter-protests that accompany every WBC appearance. In fact, counter-protestors regularly outnumber WBC protestors, often by as much as 20-1. I wrote about one such counter-protest at ComiCon last year. You don’t always get what you want when you uphold free speech, but if you don’t like the speech you’re hearing, the best cure is more free speech.