Victory for Fred Phelps

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 2 2011 1:01 PM

Victory for Fred Phelps

The Supreme Court has ruled 8-1 that laws restricting the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest military funerals are unconstitutional. This is the cultish church, run by Fred Phelps and his family, that takes rainbow-colored "God Hates Fags" signs to every tragic event that's going to get media attention -- it was only really when they started adding the funerals of Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers to the agenda that states and Congress started banning their movement. From John Roberts's opinion:

Westboro believes that America is morally flawed; many Americans might feel the same about Westboro. Westboro's funeral picketing is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible. But Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials. The speech was indeed planned to coincide with Matthew Snyder's funeral, but did not itself disrupt that funeral, and Westboro's choice to conduct its picketing at that time and place did not alter the nature of its speech

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

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I want to read Sam Alito's dissent, because there's no obvious argument against this. The church members are offensive; they're not violent; they are so boring and rote that they inspire counter-protests, but not much more than that. And they have been doing this for so long that Michael Moore filmed them, as a goofy distraction, around 15 years ago.

The best way of thinking about the Phelps clan is this: They are trolls. They are the sort of people who leave comments about how gay Justin Bieber is on his YouTube page, but they have a travel budget and, ostensibly, a religion. The ban was one of the best things that ever happened to them 

Sidebar: Sarah Palin tweets for the first time since February to denounce the decision.

Common sense & decency absent as wacko "church" allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers' funerals but we can't invoke God's name in public square.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.