In 2006, the Snyder family’s son died in the Iraq war. He was also a homosexual. Unfortunately for the Snyders, the Westboro Baptist Church decided this would be their opportunity to protest homosexuality – caring not for their loss and holding signs and exclaiming: “God hates f–s.”
To the religious and non-religious, this just seems wrong. Not only does it lack compassion for their loss, or respect the dead, it seems to go against religious dogma regardless of the denomination. Now they are at it again, protesting more funerals, and the Supreme Court is taking the case, according to the Atlantic Wire.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
– The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
In the case ofThornhill vs. Alabama in 1940, the state had a statute that no one was allowed to loiter around a business with the intention of driving away business. This law was dismissed by the Court, which ruled that the statue was invalid. This is evidenced by unions frequently protesting employers.
In the case of Pruneyard Shopping vs. Robins (1980), the shopping center was being sued, and it was contended that the center was attempting to deny the plaintiff’s right to distribute pamphlets in the parking lot. The center argued that the group was infringing on their right of private property. However, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, who was allowed to continue their distribution efforts while the center was allowed to display their disassociation with their view.
In the case of Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District in 1983, a local church wanted to use school property after-hours to show a film. The dispute was that the school is state-run, and we have separation of church and state. However, it was decided that, since the screening was after-hours, the church’s event was not necessarily school-sponsored and would have no affiliation to the religious context. The school had the the right not to offer hours for public use, but since they did, they could not discriminate anyone from participating, even the church.
A city will often deny a permit to have a large gathering or parade if officials feel it could cause a health or safety hazard. The Church is entitled to its beliefs and free to state them publicly, no matter how ridiculous, untrue or hurtful. You cannot simply blanket things with a broad statement such as Freedom of Religion. However, it is hard to imagine that the court could rule in favor of the Snyders, even if it seems like the humane thing to do.
But what if I was on the Supreme Court? How would I rule?In the case of Snyder vs. the Westboro Baptist Church (2006, 2010), I rule in favor amending the amendment! We shall now stipulate that the church or anyone else may assemble and protest no closer to the other party than 50 yards. In the case of soldiers, we uphold this with even greater diligence and, further supported by respect for the dead, we must enforce a 100-yard distance policy .
We are a civilized society and should uphold a statute that exemplifies this standard.