The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a church like Westboro Baptist has the right to stage anti-gay protests at funerals to promote its claim that God somehow hates America for tolerating homosexuality.
The court said the hateful speech was protected by the first amendment.
8 Justices were in support of allowing the group to protest, while one judge, Samuel Alito dissented, saying:
“Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case,” he wrote.
The group, Westboro Baptist, a fringe church with about 70 members led by a nutcase pastor named Fred Phelps picketed a marine’s funeral who was killed in Iraq, carrying signs that said “God Hates You,” “You Are Going To Hell,” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:
“Westboro’s funeral picketing is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible,” he wrote.
“But Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property in a peaceful manner in full compliance with the guidance of local officials,” Roberts said.
Even though church members may inflict pain at their protests, their speakers may not be punished, he said.
“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,” Roberts said.”
The marine’s father successfully sued the church for $5 million, but the verdict was overturned by an appeals court on free speech grounds.
Now the U.S. supreme court has settled the issue once and for all. Hate Speech is allowed at funerals.