1. Jr says

    I hate the WBC… But I’m afraid of the implications if the verdict at trial is upheld. To say that someone can be liable for inflicting emotional distress for making a political statement, or talking about their (evil, broken) faith, in a public place, 1/5 of a mile from the injured party, is absurd.

  2. michael says

    Yep probably the only one, i for one would like to see places like funeral homes, churches and grave yards places where behavior like that is banned entirely. if you want to protest go to washington.

  3. Wren says

    I agree that no matter how vile the speech, it must be protected. As Larry Flynt once said, “If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, then it will protect all of you.” That being said, I hope that that kid in the picture is gay and ends up committing suicide in his parent’s house. That’s my free speech.

  4. MJChicago says

    As satisfying as it would be to see the original $11MM judgment upheld and the Westboro Baptist Church seized, I agree that the potential repercussions to free speech are too severe.

  5. Dan Cobb says

    The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit located in Richmond, Virginia sided with the KKK’ers in the Westboro Baptist Church…. what a surprise! The Fourth Circuit is a KKK court itself. They are by far the most reactionary and conservative of all the federal courts!

  6. Jack says

    Hey Michael and Dan Cobb:

    Do you realize that if this verdict is upheld, the folks who protested private individuals/business owners over their support for Prop 8 may be exposed to liability?

    Then you’d be crying that the courts are homophobic, because you only want free speech when you agree with it. Two way street.

  7. Fu says

    How DARE you say “God Hates” !!! YOU are the one guilty of That sin. not to mention several others.

    IF you really believed half of what you spew – you’d shut up. Period.

  8. says

    I’d much rather that their right to free speech be upheld for obvious reasons, but also because they do us a favor by being so uniformly hateful and despicable (I mean, protesting dead soldiers’ funerals–they may as well kill puppies while they’re at it) they demonstrate the ugliest side of bigotry. If anything, they help our cause. I understand why families would be upset by their hatred, but that’s one of the costs of free speech: nasty people saying nasty stuff.

  9. jtaskw says

    Everyone has the right to free speech, they do not have the right to be free of the consequences of their speech, though. I have the right to go around flailing my arms to get attention, but if I hit someone there should be consequences.

  10. lark says

    Dan Cobb,

    The Fourth Circuit ruling was authored by a Clinton appointee. And plenty of progressive/liberal groups were arguing it should have been thrown out. You are a moron if you think this was a conservative ruling.

  11. missanthrope says

    As long as these guys are on public property, they can say whatever they want no matter vile it is.

    People need to think how this applies to us. If we didn’t have free speech in this country, we’d never have gotten as far as we have, 40 years ago people thought gay rights as offensive as the do they Phelps nowadays.

  12. MissV says

    The Court has long agreed that “it is understood that the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances. These [limitations] include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or “fighting” words–those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” See Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568. The Court has further “recognized that not all speech is of equal First Amendment importance.” see, Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Greenmoss Builders, Inc., 472 U.S. 749, 758 (1985). In, Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323 (1974), the court held that the First Amendment interest in protecting speech must be balanced against a state’s interest in protecting its residents from tortuous injury. As I see it the right to privacy superceeds one’s right to free speech.

  13. Jack says


    You can cite some cases, but I sure hope you’re not a lawyer. If so, the law school that gave you your degree should have its accreditation yanked.

  14. MissV says


    I see you’re opinion (and we know how opitions are) but no rebuttle or facts. Why is that? (I can only reason this with my opinion). There are many cases that can be cited on each sides behalf. I just cited a few that can apply to privacy. What is you’re argument again? (Something in reference to Prop 8, and how does that apply to this case again?)

  15. Lee says

    Honestly, I hope the court sides with WBC. Being a gay man, I’m definitely no fan of them or their politics, but God helps us if the USSC rules that freedom of speech isn’t absolute.

  16. Darren says

    It does seem despite all the free speech arguments and I am in favor of free speech that this is akin to yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. Free speech with the intent to harm others. This version of free speech just crosses a line of common sense and good taste. If it was your loved one there, would you want their funeral picketed by a bunch of loud mouths telling you that your family member or friend was burning in hell? No. Not while you are busy grieving.

    I say we save up our anger and descend upon Fred Phelps’ funeral and inform everyone in huge colored signs about Fred being sodomized on a certain level of Dante’s inferno.

  17. BobC562 says

    Really the question was whether the speech was sufficiently outrageous as to offend the sensibilities, and whether it was intended to inflict harm. The jury answered yes to both. Those are findings of fact that are usually left solely to the trial court, i.e. the jury. The appellate court (generally) has no business disturbing those factual findings, only whether those findings, as applied to the law, support the verdict. In other words, was the verdict reasonable based on the evidentiary record. I don’t think the USSC reversing the circuit court means end of free speech as we know it (unlike campaign finance reform, thanks a lot for that). Free speech isn’t limitless and the reality, as other posters have said, is that while the GOVERNMENT can’t restrict speech, it doesn’t automatically make the speaker immune from liability for its consequences.

  18. Robb says

    I know this is awful, but I do hope the WBC prevails in this case. I am OUTRAGED that their anti-gay, anti-Jew, anti-Catholic behavior has been tolerated and protected, but now that they have offended the WASP establishment, we’re going to talk about it?? Suck it up, middle America! Welcome to our nightmare. These folks have been permitted to torment us for decades; I’ve grown accustomed to the horrible nasty violent disgusted reaction in my stomach. Doesn’t feel good, does it?

  19. Matt says

    They should have the whole westboro church fucking deported. This way we don’t have take their shit and freedom of speech won’t be effected. This probably is not going to happen. I hate these fucking people for fucking up what we have. They are sick fucking bastards and deserve to fucking die

  20. Calith says

    Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that Americans do cherish, but it does have limits. Slander and libel are prime examples of this limitations. It was also mentioned that you cannot shout “Fire!” in a movie theater. This is because it will incite panic. The WBC has every right to say what it wants to say, but there should be limitations on where it can say such things. At a soldier’s funeral, or at a funeral of any kind? The family is already in a state of grief and adding a bunch of radical church members with signs saying that God killed their son because America is trying to extend rights to all of its citizens will cause unnecessary emotional damage to the family of the deceased. I am not against peaceful protesting, but there is line you should not cross; funerals and weddings are places you should not be subject to protests. If there were a group of people protesting outside one of your family members funerals how would you feel? Freedom of Speech has its limits, so saying that you do not want to see repercussions if the the decision calls for the church to not protest at funerals is folly.

  21. says

    I am much more desturbed by the actions of the “patriat guard” contingent than I am by the handful of whoefully misguided members of the Westboro Baptist Church, because the partriat guards actions were designed to repress the free speech of others, as reprehensible as that speech might be. As I watched the video, I was filled with a sense of dread. I imagined I was seeing first hand what facism would look like if it ever came to America. An America where dissent was no longer tollerated. And the fact these “patriat guards” are veterans, made it all the more frightening as well as depressing. The following cliche describes it best: “When facism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag, carrying a cross.”

  22. Jamie Allison says

    I am the daughter of a Baptist preacher and have never in my life heard of such disregard for human life. The Bible never teaches us to be rudely disrespectful to a family who is burying their dead. And to think that the dead man and women you are disgracing died so you could have freedom of speech… I personally think you better stop and re-think what you are doing. It could be one of your own children that dies in war the next time. Or do you teach your children that serving America is a sin? And as for sending your church to Erwin,Tn to protest our fallen soldier just stay away let us bury our hero in peace… he died for your freedom!!!!

  23. says

    With respect to Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, the issue of Free Speech seems to be attenuated in this case.

    Intentional infliction of emotional distress applies to one who without privilege to do so intentionally causes severe emotional distress to another. Courts have long recognized that the interest in freedom from severe emotional distress is of sufficient importance to require others to refrain from conduct intended to invade it.

    The intent the person is acting with need not be specific, meaning that person does not have to be acting for the purpose of causing emotional distress to the victim. It is sufficient that such emotional distress is substantially certain to be produced from their actions.

    Placing signs in the plain view of the decedent’s family that say “all soldiers are in hell” or whatever crazy things they were saying is substantially certain to cause severe emotional distress. The sign holders knew that the mourners would see their signs.

    I just don’t see how Free Speech is a concern w/r/t IIED. You wouldn’t be concerned about a defendant’s first amendment rights if you found out that they went up to a child and say “I just killed your parents” and as a result the child developed some sort of mental disorder. Isn’t that technically “free speech”? There is conduct that is so outrageous that it cannot be tolerated in our society.

    On the other hand, if the Westboro Baptist Church held their your son is in hell signs in a place where the decedent’s family was not present, it cannot be said that their actions are intended to (substantially certain) cause emotional distress. Thus, their first amendment rights to be assholes are completely intact.

    With respect to defamation, courts have recognized that the first amendment was not intended to protect the promulgation of falsehoods. However, it seems like the comments they posted online about the decedent was mostly religious rhetoric. I don’t think that posting comments like his parents raised him to defy his creator are really the type of falsehoods that merit an exception. Any reasonable person would read those comments to be opinion, not fact.

  24. Jamie says

    There are more appropriate and effective place and time for WBC to express their “free speech” try using the ballot. By protesting with vile acts and words at a soldier’s funeral are acts of a coward who picked on someone who can no longer defends him/herself. The WBC should remember that their rights to “free speech” were paid for by those soldiers’ lives. If the WBC church are trying to recruit new members for their cult then they are doing it the wrong way. No God or religion would condone such distrespectful and immoral acts and words against another human being, dead or alive.

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