Samizdata - 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.