Does the First Amendment Have Fred Phelps’ Back?

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Today (October 6), in one of the most closely watched First Amendment showdowns in recent memory, the United States Supreme Court will finally hear arguments on the case of Albert Snyder vs. the Westboro Baptist Church. 

The WBC is, of course, the Kansas church presided over by the notorious Fred Phelps, whose God Hates Fags crusade has garnered scads of international publicity and outcry. There doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of logic–Biblical or otherwise–behind the views or actions of Phelps and his cronies, but one of their most peculiar and inexplicable publicity stunts has been showing up at the funerals of slain soldiers and brandishing signs with such slogans as “Semper Fi Fags.”

In 2007, Albert Snyder, the father of one such soldier, successfully sued Phelps and his church for infliction of emotional duress. The Maryland jury award of $11 million was eventually carved in half by a judge, and the verdict was later overturned on appeal.

Scott Swenson at The Huffington Post has a nice piece that provides a bit of historical perspective on Snyder v. Phelps and its odyssey through the court system and potential ramifications.

As odious as you might find Phelps and his brethren, the case presents a thorny constitutional challenge. What do you think? Is the First Amendment so sacrosanct and pliable that even the Westboro Baptist Church should be able to use it for shelter?

Source: The Huffington Post

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