Thursday, March 03, 2011

The bad guys win, and that's ... good...

This is what it means to have a nation of laws, not men1. A nation in which the rules protect even those who espouse different viewpoints. There may not be a more unlikeable, loathsome group than Fred Phelps and his "flock" at the Westboro (KA) Baptist (not really, because Baptists are Christians and these people aren't) (not-really-a) Church but free speech is free speech. As the SCOTUS ruled...
The First Amendment protects hateful protests at military funerals, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in an 8-to-1 decision.

“Speech is powerful,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain.”

But under the First Amendment, he went on, “we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Instead, the national commitment to free speech, he said, requires protection of “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”
If the first amendment doesn't serve to protect unpopular (in this case, utterly loathsome) speech from unpopular (despicable, heinous, irresponsible, vile) people, then it really doesn't serve much of a purpose. There's no cost to protecting, or even need to protect, popular speech. The Fred Phelps traveling road show is obviously an abomination, but as long as it sticks to speech, it's a constitutionally protected abomination. The court got this one right, even if no one likes this outcome.

1 - A title that we, unfortunately, far too seldom live up to.

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