Everyone keeps talking about how difficult this pending SCOTUS case regarding Fred Phelps is and shit. I don’t think it’s that god-damned difficult. I think the precedents were pretty much established in Cohen V. California and in Morse V. Frederick and in NYT v. Sullivan to boot.
The first case I mentioned is the one that defined “profanity” and established that profanity is not protected by the First Amendment. By that ruling, the definition of “profanity” is that you know what “profanity” is when you see it. And I for one would rather see a filching movie before I’d rather see a bunch of rednecks picketing a soldier’s funeral.
The second case I mentioned is the more recent “bong hits for Jesus” case, in which the Supremes indicated that yes, a school can suspend a student for saying shit. If a school can suspend some asshole for a “bong hits for Jesus” sign even when the sign is presented off-campus, then certainly a government has in interest in nipping this ridiculous harassment in the bud.
The third case I mentioned defined “public figures” and established that these persons must establish a higher standard—malice—when suing for libel. I don’t believe that the family of a fallen soldier would qualify as a “public figure” and would therefore be well within their rights to sue for libel if someone prints a sign that suggests that their fallen son or daughter is going to the hot place or whatever.
I think that picketing a funeral should be illegal. It’s disgusting. It’s profane. And if SCOTUS doesn’t rule correctly, I’m going to start painting my “GOD HATES FRED PHELPS” sign for when that evil fucker dies.
He did call my Grandmother a “buttfucker,” after all. True story.
By the way, let’s clear this up right now: No, I don’t think burning the American flag in public is protected speech either. I think that unless it’s done for the respectful notion of disposing of a torn or tarnished flag, it’s profanity and that the burner should be locked up in the slam. I also think Nazis should be made to live in a big vat of poo and pointed and laughed at by the local townspeople. On these things, the ACLU and I diverge a tad. But I’m still a card-carrying member.
Thank you and God bless America.