“Does a fallen soldier deserve more respect than an abortionist?”

So asks Phil Lawler discussing the recent SCOTUS Westboro decision. He writes:

The Westboro Baptist Church is a nasty little bunch of fanatics, who gain publicity for their fundamentalist views in a particularly loathsome way: by picketing the funerals of fallen American soldiers. But 8 members of the US Supreme Court have agreed that even this repellent form of public speech is protected by the First Amendment.

Perhaps so. After all it is when people say unpopular things, and/or say them in unpopular ways, that they need constitutional protection. Those who express polite, conventional views are never in much danger of being silenced. But I have not read the briefs in this case, and I do not propose to examine the constitutional issues. Instead, I want to comment on the way one media outlet (CNN) described the central issue

The justices were being asked to address how far states and private entities such as cemeteries and churches can go to justify picket-free zones and the use of “floating buffers” to silence or restrict the speech or movements of demonstrators exercising their constitutional rights in a funeral setting.

The mention of picket-free zones, and buffer zones, immediately made me think of the laws preventing pro-lifers from coming near the doors of abortion clinics. In my own home state of Massachusetts, the “buffer zone” legislation makes it technically illegal for a pro-life activist even to walk down the sidewalk in front of an abortuary—although any other citizen is free to do so. Somehow this legislation has, to date, survived legal challenges. I don’t understand. 

Read the rest. Chris Wysoci’s comment on this post made the same point:

If there is no “jackass exception” to the First Amendment, why is there an “Abortion Clinic Protester” exemption? It’s illegal to stand in front of an abortion clinic and do what Fred Phelps does at these funerals.

Perhaps the legal eagles who agree with this decision can explain to me why abortion clinics deserve more protection than the grieving family of a hero who gave all in service to his nation.

2011: Dying in service to one’s country while protecting the First Amendment rights of others denies one the same protections afforded to abortionists. What a recruitment poster, eh? Call me a bitter military wife clinger.

H/t: Pundette.

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3 Responses

  1. The problem with his view point is that it doesn’t take into consideration the facts of the case. The family never saw them during the funeral. They were told by someone that saw the coverage of them on the news. They were 1,000 feet away.

    Personally I find this to be the reason why the court needed to come to the decision that they did. Abortion is considered political discourse, the same way the war is. If they stopped westboro from being 1,000 feet away, they can stop the pro life picketers as well. To the left pro life signs are just as vile as Westboro.

    • I understand your point, JACG, but prolifers can’t picket clinics. Westboro nuts can. Why is there a different standard?

      • Unless I am mistaken; which I may very well be, they can as long as they stay a certain distance away. I think it depends on the state.

        There is a clinic in Virginia that has picketers outside of it often. I drive by several times a week and most days I see people with signs. They are across the street and they can’t talk to the women who are going in, but they are there. We have a very active group of pro life activists in this area, and I wouldn’t want them to be stopped.

        I just think that going against Westboro would have opened the flood gates for the left to go after conservative activists, which would be horrible thing.

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