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Various Groups Defend Westboro Baptist Church's Rights

Westboro Baptist ChurchLast week, a number of groups filed briefs with the Supreme Court, defending the Westboro Baptist Church's freedom of speech.  While none of them condoned the Phelps' message or method, they all agreed on one thing:  The Westboro Baptist Church's propaganda is free speech protected by the First Amendment.

The Associated Baptist Press notes that those filing briefs supporting the church included,

  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 21 news-media organizations;
  • Rutherford Institute, a conservative Christian organization;
  • Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian law group; and
  • A group of professors of constitutional law.

According to the article,

A group of professors of constitutional law said the Supreme Court has protected "offensive speech" in the past, "because it contributes to discourse on issues of public interest and because efforts to censor it often result from antipathy towards the speaker's message."

"Unpopular speech is more likely to offend people than conventional wisdom," the professors said. For that reason, they argued, allowing "indiscriminate punishment" of offensive speech would, in the words of a previous court opinion, "effectively empower a majority to silence dissidents simply as a matter of personal predilections."

Earlier, 48 states and veterans groups filed briefs with the Supreme Court, asking that damages that had been awarded to Albert Snyder but overturned on appeal be reinstated.  These groups claim an interest in preserving the dignity of military funerals.

About D. Beeksma

One of the growing crowd of American "nones" herself, Deborah is a prolific writer who finds religion, spirituality and the impact of belief (and non-belief) on culture inspiring, fascinating and at times, disturbing. She hosts the God Discussion show and handles the site's technical work. Her education and background is in business, ecommerce and law.
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