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Free Speech or Hate Speech?

There have been a number of articles in the news over the last couple of years concerning the Westboro Baptist Church.  The Church is led by Fred Phelps and its congregation consists of about 70-80 family members.  Why is this group so controversial?  For a number of years they have been protesting the funerals of American soldiers as a way to show that America is in violation of God’s will by accepting homosexuality.  One of these funerals that was protested was for Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, who was not himself a homosexual, but the Church still targeted his funeral to show its disdain for current policy.  Now, many would argue that the things said and written on signs during the protest could amount to hate speech, or qualify as an analogous situation as yelling, “Fire,” in a crowded theater which does not allow constitutional protection.  However, others would argue that this speech, while hateful and despicable, is still protected under the 1st Amendment and any limiting of the protests would have a far-reaching impact on free speech rights.

This issue is going to be argued before the Supreme Court in the fall with Matthew Snyder’s father leading the charge in support of limiting such speech, while Westboro continues to defend its position that it was engaging in lawful free speech.  How this case turns out will have a substantial impact on free speech rights moving forward.  To learn more, please read this article.

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