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The Price Of Free Speech

Publication Date: 
October 04, 2010
Sean Gregory

Lecturer and founder of SCOTUS blog Thomas Goldstein is quoted on Snyder v. Phelps, a case on the Supreme Court docket that weighs whether the First Amendment protects a Kansas Church from liability for protesting at a deceased U.S. Marine's funeral. Sean Gregory of Time filed this story:

This is Matt's day, Albert Snyder kept telling himself that March morning in 2006, hours before he laid his only son to rest. This is about Matt. Ignore them.

Them were the seven protesters he had been warned about who were planning to picket his son's funeral. The had never met Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder. They didn't know much about him except that he had been killed in Iraq the week before. And yet they had flown more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to brandish signs saying things like "You're going to hell," "God hates fags" and "Thank God for 9/11." The 70 members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kans., stage protests at military funerals around the country because they believe God is punishing troops for America's tolerance of homosexuality--even when those killed, like Matt, were not gay--and that all of God's judgments must be celebrated.


"This case really cries out for 'just this once,'" says Tom Goldstein, an attorney who has argued 22 cases before the Supreme Court and publishes SCOTUS Blog. "We have to protect this family and the memory of the soldiers who gave their lives in the ultimate sacrifice. But it's very hard to write a legal rule like that."