courts and funeral protesting Essay

Submitted By dak93
Words: 1091
Pages: 5

Funeral Protestors Push the Limit of Free Speech In the video on the funeral protesting of fallen soldier by the church, the premier argument is as to whether or not their actions are no longer protected under the umbrella of the first amendment of the Constitution, and instead constitute an invasion of the privacy of the families who are trying to bury their fallen loved ones. Many local courts at state level have put forth many laws all but banning the action of funeral protests of fallen service members, requiring that the protestors voice their protest at distances of up to 1,000 feet away from funeral services and threatening arrest in some cases. The protestors argue that such action constitutes a violation of their freedom of speech.
The event that has sparked this legal battle was the picketing of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2007 by the Westboro Baptist church. After seeing the picketing of his son’s funeral, Matt’s father brought forth a lawsuit in the U.S. District court against the church for allegedly invading the family privacy, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, and defamation. The District Court said that the family was in the right and decided to award the family $5 million in damages. The church appealed that decision to the 4th Circuit Court of appeals saying that doing so violated their first amendment rights to free speech, and the 4th Circuit court concurring their rights were violated, and from there it proceeded to the Supreme Court. (SNYDER v. PHELPS) In my opinion, as person who is a member of the United States Armed Forces and has deployed overseas, and has had the unfortunate experience of knowing friends who laid down their lives for her; to imagine seeing people at their services saying such obnoxious, vile and repulsive things, makes my blood boil with rage. But as time went on and I thought more about it I realized that these men, my friends, men who will always be on my mind till the day I die, sacrificed themselves just so that these very people would have the right to say what they want regardless of its content. The Supreme Court throughout the years has plainly stated that certain freedoms of expression cannot be outlawed simply because the content itself is offensive in nature to most of the general public. It can only be controlled in certain cases if that speech or action constitutes a “clear and present danger” or is threatening/intimidating in nature to a group of persons or a person. As seen in the Supreme Court case of Texas v. Johnson the court ruled that it was unconstitutional for Texas to pass laws punishing flag burning because while Johnson’s actions were offensive and disagreeable, it was symbolic speech/freedom of expression protected under the first amendment and did not threaten nor intimidate anyone.(Politics in America) Many argue that the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church violate the protection of freedom of expression, by inflicting emotional distress on the family’s whose loved ones service they are picketing, saying that because the funeral service is a private event and not a public one, the church has no freedom to protest the event, and should be removed from the premises. But during the Supreme Court case SNYDER V. PHELPS, it was made clear by the defense attorneys that the protestors were within the minimum allowable distance to the service, and had not just brought signs showing discontent for the funeral service and for the family, but also signs criticizing the catholic clergy, gay marriage and other modern day social issues. In other words they were not there to with the sole purpose to harass the family of the fallen soldier but to also protest a mass subject of topics that they have taken issue with through the years. This means in my opinion that this therefore voids the legal concept of the family’s privacy being violated, due to the distance from the funeral that the protests were taking place. It also voids the…