My Paper on Snyder v. Phelps (The Westboro Baptist Church Case Being Argued in the Supreme Court)

  • 0

Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about the Westboro Baptist Church. They protested Judaism last week in Brooklyn and they have a case in front of the Supreme Court.

I have been asked for predictions and my opinion on the issue.

Luckily, I wrote this paper for a Hate Speech Seminar I took at Loyola Law School in the Summer of 2010. There is some important legal background, a quasi-prediction and alternative suggestion for the future in there. (I was given permission to post the article by my professor.)

I hope you will take the time to read it, think it over and share your thoughts with me.

I try to avoid legalese, but if there is something in there that needs explanation please leave a comment so I can explain it to the best of my ability.

Enjoy.

(I also recommend watching the excellent documentary on the WBC which follows the paper.)

Sticks and Stones

Loui Theroux produced this fascinating documentary on the WBC:

  • Holyhyrax

    Very very interesting stuff. But I tend to steer in the other direction (unless I misunderstood you ). I fear people abusing this, claiming and elevating any insult to them as almost a “physical harm.” I do believe something like this can open the flood gates to any further action —not in the immediate future— down in the future to squash any speech someone might find insulting and cause some sort of “harm”. When one starts kvetching new interpretations into—in our example— fighting words, I am afraid it won’t stop.

    This is interesting in another way. We all seem to have our agendas. You, Me, everyone. Someone might have an apriori opinion on what law should be, and then futz around, kvetching and interpreting till the law matches what he/she wanted from the get go.

    • I fear people abusing this, claiming and elevating any insult to them as almost a “physical harm.”

      We already allow suits of this nature when it originates from physical activity. It would not be so much more to handle to allow for suits originating from speech that caused actual physical harm. But your argument is valid.

      Someone might have an apriori opinion on what law should be, and then futz around, kvetching and interpreting till the law matches what he/she wanted from the get go.

      There are 9 justices on the Supreme Court for a reason…

      • We already allow suits of this nature when it originates from physical activity. It would not be so much more to handle to allow for suits originating from speech that caused actual physical harm. But your argument is valid.

        It’s often difficult to prove that it originates from physical activity, it would be ever so much more difficult to prove that it originates from speech.

        Even though my visceral reaction is to squelch this kind of speech, since I cannot think of any clear way to define it. I don’t think the court will be able to define it clearly enough either. Therefore they will be forced to allow it. Yuk.

        • It’s often difficult to prove that it originates from physical activity, it would be ever so much more difficult to prove that it originates from speech.

          Exactly. Which would prevent a flood of litigation.

          I don’t think the court will be able to define it clearly enough either. Therefore they will be forced to allow it.

          The paper is supposed to help you come to grips with it by showing the history of this type of litigation… 🙂

          • I have to admit that I didn’t read every work of your paper. Though I did skim through it and read your conclusion 🙂

  • Pingback: Snyder v. Phelps: Commentary « Electronic Legal Research-Free Sources()