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More on Snyder v. Phelps

A few notes I couldn’t fit into my story today about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Snyder v. Phelps.

– While the underlying case is emotional and brings out strong reactions, the court’s actual ruling “doesn’t break any new ground,” according to Garrett Epps, a Constitutional law professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

“The court went out of its way to make its ruling as narrow as it could,” Epps said.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer hinted at what could be the next First Amendment battleground, however. His three-page concurring opinion (scroll to page 20 of the court’s ruling) noted the majority did not say anything about Internet postings. Breyer has expressed concern in the past about a lack of precedents regarding the constitutionality of Internet speech. Epps thinks those cases are coming – and Westboro Baptist Church might be the catalyst.

“My sense is they’re really going to post some things online and see if someone sues them,” Epps said.

– I was only able to include some of what veterans who are lawyers told me about the case.

Charles Blomquist, an Army lieutenant colonel and chairman of the MSBA’s Special Committee on Veteran’s Affairs and Military Law, said he was “disturbed” by Westboro’s picketing.

“It’s as offensive and appalling an act as one can come up with when our fallen heroes deserve every amount of respect in an hour when their family is suffering so much,” said Blomquist, a Baltimore City prosecutor. “It’s very difficult to digest. But as a lawyer, I think the irony of it is the things these men and women have volunteered to do allows people in the church group to do what they do.”

And here’s David Burkhouse’s thoughtful comments in their entirety:

The Westboro Baptist Church’s protests at the burial of our fallen service men and woman is an unspeakable desecration of the memory of our nation’s fallen heroes. The fact that the Westboro Baptist Church takes shelter from liability for its indecent conduct behind the very Constitutional freedoms which Lance Corporal Snyder died in defense of is doubly insulting. Although the First Amendment would be of little utility if it only protected popular speech, speech of this sort should plainly be subject to reasonable restrictions as to time and place. I am heartened to see that in the wake of the protest at Lance Corporal Snyder’s burial the State of Maryland has enacted legislation aimed at imposing these necessary restrictions. Unfortunately the Supreme Court’s decision does nothing to compensate Lance Corporal Snyder’s family for the desecration of his burial. The Supreme Court may release the Westboro Baptist Church from liability but this does nothing to restore the decency that the Westboro Baptist Church lost when it selected Lance Corporal Snyder’s burial as a venue for its protest.

One comment

  1. My friend and i are having a debate on this court case on Thursday. We are against the supreme courts ruling. We would appreciate any advice or additional information you could give us.