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Weighing Free Speech Against Hate Speech

Posted on Oct 6, 2010
supreme court
Flickr / dbking

What do you get when you mix issues regarding a fallen soldier, free speech, homophobia and gays in the military and throw in hatemonger pastor Fred Phelps and Larry Flynt’s famous court battle with Jerry Fallwell? A big legal tangle, that’s what, and one that the Supreme Court was puzzling over on Wednesday.  —KA

USA Today:

Supreme Court justices expressed empathy Wednesday for a father whose Marine Corps son was killed in Iraq and whose funeral was protested by fundamentalist pastor Fred Phelps and his anti-gay followers.

“This is a case about exploiting a private family’s grief,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

Yet, the scope of the justices’ questions during the hour-long session revealed the difficulty of the case and the reality that the court’s free-speech precedents make it hard for individuals to claim they have been harmed by even horrific statements regarding public issues.

Even with their sympathy for the bereaved father, the justices, including key vote Anthony Kennedy, were clearly struggling with how to avoid a ruling that encroaches on legitimate, although hateful, protest messages.

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By ronjeremy, October 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

in public spaces and on public spaces people should be able to say what they choose.  i do not have a problem with anything anyone says in the public sphere, freedomly speaking.  to control what people say is a very dangerous (and terrible) road to travel.  there will be no stopping once it starts.  if presidents and politicians can flat out lie, why can’t i shout what i choose from the sidewalk?

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By gerard, October 7, 2010 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment

Even though we don’t know what it is and can’t define it, let alone teach it, there’s still no substitute for that do-no-harm quality, good taste.

Yet bad taste has been carefully cultivated in America for decades as the rights of free speech and free enterprise (freedom to make unlimited profits). The inevitable but tasteless results are everywhere visible and begging for recognition and treatment.

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By samosamo, October 7, 2010 at 8:42 am Link to this comment


I wonder how much the 5, or is it 6, ardent
federalists conservatives will take from the
‘private’ sector to make people’s words criminal
so that the private sector’s prisons can increase
its populations. Got to have a way to enhance the
income of the ‘private’ sector and this would be a
point of doing that.

I think I will create the ‘dream police’ so that a
criteria can be created making certain thoughts
and ideas criminal. And, if found by hooking
people up to sensors on their heads and other
body parts, then it will be off to jail you go for
your thoughts and dreams.

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By felicity, October 7, 2010 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

The Brethren, whoever they are at the time, have and
can decide that free speech which causes pain and
suffering in others is forbidden.

Years ago a pornography case came before their august
selves and they decided that if the pornography was
prurient, sexually arousing, it was forbidden.

Why do I get an image of 9 black-robed people sitting
around viewing pornography trying to decide if it is
sexually arousing and posing questions to each other
like, “Are you sexually aroused?”

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By SarcastiCanuck, October 7, 2010 at 6:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As Wesley Snipes quipped in the movie Demolition Man,“It is my constitutional right to be an asshole”.Obviously Pastor Phelps subscribes to this same logic….As society and people get angrier and nastier,First Amendment rights will get more and more confusing.Who draws the fine line between free speech and hurtful rants,between dialogue and diatribe?How much verbal acid do some peoples,groups or religions have to percevere in the internet world where everybody has a virtual soapbox to stand on and pass thier opinion.Who decides right from wrong?Can anyone answer this catch 22 for me?Good luck supremys becuase even you are divided on this.

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By Jim Yell, October 7, 2010 at 5:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is a Knot? The Phelps have adopted a means of protest that is like the person yelling Fire in a theater. They need to be forced to respect the right of families to have funerals without interference. For the way they go about protest they should be fined and if necessary prison, but their right to protest in appropriate public areas should not be restricted. There is a time and a place for everything. The only time a Funeral should be subject to protest is one being paid for by the public at large and then the Funeral is a public forum, but private funerals are just that private functions. They should be protected from disruption by rude people.

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By Rudolfo, October 6, 2010 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

Hate speech, and even better, incitement to hate, is entirely a product of the Zionists who are trying to pass laws limiting speech worldwide.  Their successes have been remarkable .... for example “The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989” includes the following….

(1) It shall be an offence for a person—
( a ) to publish or distribute written material,
( b ) to use words, behave or display written material—
(i) in any place other than inside a private residence, or
(ii) inside a private residence so that the words, behaviour or material are heard or seen by persons outside the residence,
( c ) to distribute, show or play a recording of visual images or sounds, if the written material, words, behaviour, visual images or sounds, as the case may be, are threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended or, having regard to all the circumstances, are likely to stir up hatred.

Only the First Amendment has kept laws like the above off the books in the US, and the Zionists are struggling daily to strenghten ‘hate crime’ laws in the US.  E. Kagan is notable for her support of such laws.

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