3.09.2010

Epic constitutional fight brewing...

And we hate you, Fred Phelps.



Most of us have heard about this noxious douchebag in Topeka, an alleged minister at Westboro Baptist, by the name of Fred Phelps...he of the God Hates Fags/God Hates America campaign. He used to be merely obnoxious...mocking dead homosexuals on his website, protesting areas with gay rights protections and the like. But now he's gone Full Monty batshit, disturbing the sanctity of, and organizing protests at, funerals of dead homosexuals and U.S. soldiers.



I'll bet Fred wouldn't do that shit around this guy, the quite gay, and very large, Derek Da Silva...Did I mention that he runs a fight club?



As you can imagine, it only took a few times of this dog-n-pony shit before the families started getting really upset. And, being America, where vigilantism has sadly gone out of vogue, they did what any self-respecting citizen is expect to: They got all litigious. One such law suit, filed by the family of a dead Marine, cost the church $5 million bucks. But, it was overturned on appeal, because the higher court felt that Fred and crew were exercising their constitutional rights to gather, assemble and protest.

That case has now made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States



 We're totally gonna' fuck this up...



While they do a decent job of wrecking the Country, I'll bet this has to give the right-wing element fits. I have no doubt that they give a shit about homosexuals' emotional distress, but Westboro is now targeting the military; a long-time favorite of the Court. Making matters even worse is that this is a Constitutional issue before them, making Roberts' procedural/jurisidictional ploy moot: They have to tackle it head on. 

I'll do some early handicapping on this one for you, even though I've not read the briefs (yet!). I think that, citing to some pretty long-standing (but untested) precedent, the Court will declare that a funeral is a private event; that this does not fall within the ambit of state-monkeying with the First Amendment; and, that such speech is not protected because they are "fighting words".


I'm from Alabama; trust me when I tell you that I know what fighting words are...


For your reading pleasure, I give you the case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), wherein the Court opined that certain words may not actually even count as free speech under the First Amendment: 

The Court noted that the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances. There are certain "well-defined and narrowly limited" classes of speech that can be proscribed and regulated without constitutional problem. These include the "lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or 'fighting words'." The Court defined fighting words as those words that "by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace." Fighting words are excluded, the Court reasoned, because any benefit derived from their utterance is outweighed by the social interest in order and morality. The Court determined that the statute was constitutional. Finding that the epithets uttered by Chaplinsky were likely to provoke the average person to retaliation and thereby cause a breach of the peace, the Court ruled that Mr. Chaplinsky's words were unprotectable fighting words.


Read the excellent summary of fighting word cases here.





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