The Supreme Court sided with one of the most universally despised groups in America, ruling 8-1 that the Westboro Baptist Church has the First Amendment right to engage in vulgar protests at military funerals. The opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, with Justice Samuel Alito dissenting.
“What Westboro said, in the whole context of how and where it chose to say it, is entitled to ‘special protection’ under the First Amendment,” Roberts wrote, “and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous.”
The Westboro Baptist Church is loathsome, but the court’s decision is correct. The price of free speech is that we have to put up with the worst of it. A picketing law that requires protesters to keep a certain distance from funerals is already being proposed in several states. In the meantime, counter-protesters have begun drowning out Westboro Baptist’s rantings at memorial services with patriotic songs and chants, which is also a constitutional way to fight the church’s message.