Washington (CNN) — A Kansas church known for its angry, anti-gay protests at funerals of U.S. troops won an appeal Wednesday at the Supreme Court in a case testing the competing constitutional rights of free speech and privacy.
In an 8-1 ruling, the justices said that members of Westboro Baptist Church had a right to promote what they call a broad-based message on public matters such as wars. The father of a fallen Marine had sued the small church, saying those protests amounted to targeted harassment and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.
At issue was a delicate test between the privacy rights of grieving families and the free speech rights of demonstrators, however disturbing and provocative their message. Several states have attempted to impose specific limits on when and where the church members can protest.
The church, led by pastor Fred Phelps, believes God is punishing the United States for “the sin of homosexuality” through events including soldiers’ deaths. Members have traveled the country shouting at grieving families at funerals and displaying such signs as “Thank God for dead soldiers,” “God blew up the troops” and “AIDS cures fags.”
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People, people I cannot believe our government has approved such atrocious and evil behavior! I cannot imagine having to endure this at my child’s funeral. What have we become?? This is NOT Christianity, this is NOT what the first amendment is about – this is not even human! A funeral is not a place of protest!
How is it that pastors who rightfully and lovingly warn against the sin of homosexuality and its consequences in their churches are being silenced, yet this obviously outright hate speech is allowed to take place? I thought we honored fallen soldiers for selflessly giving their lives for our freedom! Some freedom!
God is not killing these soldiers, bullets are killing them. America, and it’s war-mongering and its need to control the world is what is taking the lives of our young men and women. It is not the work of our Father God! Fred Phelps and his followers do not represent Him. They represent a god of their understanding, one who is as vengeful and as hate-filled as they are – someone or some thing who is no god at all.
If God is judging gay military personnel by killing them, then what will He do with those who come in His name and misrepresent Him to the world? We are all sinners and we are all in need of repentance every day.
My heart goes out to the family members of the fallen soldiers who have endured such senseless cruelty. Sadly, we will see more of it as the meaning of our constitution is broadened by representatives who have no backbone to stand for the truth.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17