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US Supreme Court Has Reaffirmed Past Rulings
your right to be an a-hole . . .

 3:56 pm on Mar 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

. . . is protected under the First Amendment.




 4:12 pm on Mar 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

For Americans, I'd think this would be something they would want. A lot of their background revolves around protection of religious differences. That goes double for religions that the gov't or the mainstream see as flakes.

Of course these people are aholes. Vocalizing your religious views in someone's face is pretty much the definition of the word. But there's lots of examples in history of people being prosecuted for their religious views and none of those examples seem particularly good ideas to me.


 4:19 pm on Mar 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

I was about to report the opening post until I saw who posted it. Are you hoping for a political discussion or a religious discussion on this Lawman?

I find it astonishing that anyone would see a funeral as a good place to protest. It's just disrespectful.


 4:27 pm on Mar 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

>>Are you hoping for a political discussion or a religious discussion on this Lawman?

Its not about religion or politics. It's a legal determination about freedom of speech under the first amendment. Let's start there.


 6:10 pm on Mar 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

vordmeister, almost no one takes as a church, let's be honest. And what protects them, protects us.


 2:20 am on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I support free speech and in the circumstances I think the US Supreme Court had no choice in the matter - their task is to uphold the constitution and the law as it stands.

In England & Wales - where we famously do not have a written constitution - one of the Public Order Acts might be be invoked. Section 5 of the Public Order Act (1986) states:

"A person is guilty of an offence if he: (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby."

I am not particularly happy that my right to be insulting is potentially curtailed in this way - I won't defend causing harassment or alarm, or anything threatening, but I can see "causing distress" being problematic where the intent may merely be to ridicule. There have been convictions here, some of which I am very uncomfortable with.

But none involved anything quite as inhuman as picketing funerals. Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church was banned from entering my country in 2009 and I am not remotely unhappy about it.

We have enough a-holes of our own.



 2:54 am on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Freedom of speech is clearly a very important issue, but it really sucks that it's able to be used to defend that type of behaviour. It's quite different in the UK, where you would be in a criminal court for a whole list of offences if you did the same (breach of the peace, harrassment, hate crime stuff I'm not even sure of...)

My initial reaction was to suggest that freedom of speech be defended when voiced in appropriate settings - but then I thought about the ways in which "appropriate settings" could be manipulated to the detriment of any given party. It's easy to get a very broad concensus on the example above that their views should not have been voiced in that way at that time - but where do you draw the line? I suppose you could exempty freedom of speech as a defence for certain crimes and deal with such people on harassment grounds or something similar.

A question: if someone goes into a bank and says something in a menacing manner which causes a teller to hand over cash (such as "I think god punishes tellers who don't give out free cash with gruesome death when walking to their car") but does not make an explicit demand for cash, can they use freedom of speech as a defence - if not, surely there must be precedents that can be invoked in circumstances such as the case that the original post is about.


 4:09 am on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Inbound, please brush up on free speech. You don't have the right to go to a teller or anyone and use threatening language or gestures.

This 'church' is protected mainly because they protest USA policies, not because they hate Billy, a private person, and decide to picket his house 24/7


 9:12 am on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

This 'church' is protected mainly because they protest USA policies, not because they hate Billy, a private person, and decide to picket his house 24/7

Non-churchs have been allowed to picket private persons houses and businesses for other controversial issues. (to stay un-political)

Church has nothing to do with it.

1st admendment rights are worthless if they don't protect unpopular speech.


 9:47 am on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

>>1st admendment rights are worthless if they don't protect unpopular speech.

in europe we have the european convention of human rights which is a similar thing, and causes similar issues.

there is the beginnings of a movement here to make radical changes to law that is considered outmoded and was brought about for historic reasons and times have changes, just as they have in america too ... personally i don't feel people should have rights/free speech without making due consideration for the responsibilities that also come from being a member of society...

... and clearly one of those responsibilities is not causing others unavoidable pain by your actions.

i honestly believe laws in all countries are exploited by SOME lawyers (no disrespect meant to our very own lawman) who seek personal gain, fame and aggrandizement from arguing the letter of the law which is often not in the spirit of what the original lawmakers meant.


 11:10 am on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

1st admendment rights are worthless if they don't protect unpopular speech.

@andyll you nailed it!
As did the Supreme Court, with the exception of Justice Alito of course.

Of course these people are aholes.

See, the beauty of this type of free speech is that it is highly useful to bring those of us who are not aholes (in the same fashion, anyhow) together in our dissent for their lunacy and our belief in their right to practice said lunacy so long as I also have the right to say I believe they are lunatics and are not even worth the cardboard their signs are printed on. Extremists are never well balanced enough to be worthy of being heard, yet there are always some who listen. It's outrageous. But that's life.


 6:09 pm on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Lawman, this thread is very difficult to participate in without drawing a deeper perspective in. I'm not ignoring your comment about keeping "speech under the first amendment. Let's start there". But you did leave the window open just a tad so I'm going to respectfully exploit the opportunity but I'll keep it mild compared to what I would normally say about the arrogance of fundamentalists.

Laws are written to give us guidance. They are not meant to be a replacement for decency. Even though it may have been legally alright to do what those folks are doing, according to the law of man, it is in defiance of higher laws. Those fundamentalists are as wicked as extremists. I don't believe in physical war or shedding blood of any human or any living species on this earth. Regardless it is not up to us to judge as those wretched fundamentalists are doing. And no, God hates no one, not even soldiers. Some day, in some life, in some mansion, they too will finally realize the truth. The real holy war though, is an internal one. As soon as we pick up physical weapons as a form of resolving the "I'm right you're wrong, bang bang" argument -- we've automatically lost, not just the battle, but the whole war. Reset, reload, here's a club, there is a new world to populate, go fight those dinosaurs and wildebeests with all that misunderstanding within. The porch light is eternally on when we decide we've had enough. Then and only then do we enter into the seventh day. If anyone one of us was lost on earth, our fathers wouldn't rest until we were home safely. It's no different on a universal level.

To those who overcome...they shall go out no more.


 7:34 pm on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

The court did not make any ruling based on religion. The offensive group could have been any confederation of jackanapes so let's leave their religion out of it. In any event, we are not a theocracy. The court can only make a legal ruling based on the law that they have, to wit; the US constituion also called the supreme law of the land.

Bringing religion into the mix will only result in me having to delete the off-topic posts. There will be no editing. I am hopeful future posters will not put me in that position.


 8:49 pm on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I need to say one more thing please, and I'll let this rest. I just shared this with lawman through PM so he can vouch for my real name but I don't want to share it here. I am all about unity, not division. I have a different perspective than many people. Some have referred to me as autistic, I'm not! My way of thinking is not an illness, it's a gift. I think in binary patterns better than spoken words. When topics like this come up I sometimes have to sit on my hands for days not to jump in and express it from my way of interpretation.

So back to the binary. Long before there was verbal expression there was binary info traveling on light. And as we get back closer to the source of all life we once again become more binary thinkers rather than expressing through speech.

The number of my name is 64. It is a building block. I've mentioned somewhere in another thread that I was born at a location called mile 3 in a town called 7 Islands. 64 x 37 = 2368. There's a lot to learn from it.

I made it to full member status yesterday, as wheel would say, take a picture of this post because it may not last.

Lawman are you capable of only banning me from the Foo forum and not the whole website -- just to protect me from myself :)


 10:54 pm on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Walkman, I am by no means well-versed with free speech (being from the UK) as you clearly can see. I suppose my reaction gives you an indication of the way some people outside the US will view this. If you don't understand free speech intimately then I think people may question why things can't be done to stop this kind of behaviour.

You may be able to help the ignorant among us; what can and can't you say and by whom / to who? (not looking for a comprehensive answer... I guess that would be a very long one - just a "Free Speech 101")


 11:59 pm on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Freedom of speech is protected in the First Amendment to the US Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment was originally intended to restrict the power of national government and was spurred by experience of a particuarly repressive English law of the time (which made criticising the government a crime).

The Supreme Court has made some exceptions (obscenity, incitement to violence, defamation etc) but the kind of English law I cited earlier in the thread would probably be struck down (at least in part) as unconstitutional.

I think people may question why things can't be done to stop this kind of behaviour

Distasteful as picketing funerals may be, there is no law against it as long as it is done peacefully - and in the most recent Supreme Court ruling it was pointed out that the a-holes were 1000 yards from the funeral.

IANAL (in either jurisdiction) and my sympathies lie with the bereaved.



 7:02 pm on Mar 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

I really admire the free speech laws in the US. If people like this are free to speak, I know I am too (or would be if we had the same laws). Unpleasant speech must be protected.

It is quite amusing to make a list of who these guys hate: gays, Catholics, Jews, the media, America, and EVERY other country.

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