The Effect of Freedom
Kenneth N Geist
Sept 19, 2011
University of Phoenix
The Effect of Freedom
The first Amendment, the first written text within the Constitution granting the right of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, to peacefully assemble, and to petition to the government for grievances. Though stated in simple terms, the views on them have been challenged on many occasions throughout U.S. history. Cases have been fought over the definition and limitation of the first amendment and if a case is deemed controversial enough it may appear before the Supreme Court, as the verdict may have a substantial effect on the country and future views of the first amendment. ...view middle of the document...
Now what of a case where someone deemed wrong by society is right?
In the case of Snyder v Phelps, Snyder was pressing charges against the Westboro Church. The case started when Mr. Snyder’s son, Mathew, who was serving in the Marine Corps was killed overseas in Iraq. Mr. Snyder made arrangements with the Catholic Church and a listing in the town paper when the service was to be held. The Westboro Church being known for their extreme views of God hating the United States on their tolerance of homosexuals, especially in the military. The Westboro Church caught wind of the service and went to the town of Westminster, Maryland to picket the funeral in protest. The Church called authorities informing the spot they chose to hold the protest and stayed about a thousand feet from the church. Upon arriving thirty minutes prior to the service and waited for the procession to pass by. As the procession passed by they remained silent and neither yelled or gave obscene gestures as they pass, and Mr. Snyder wasn’t aware of the signs meanings until they appeared later that night on the local news, claiming he could only see the top of them. The signs stating”Thank God for IED’s, God Hates the US, and Don’t Pray for the US” (2010). After the event became under the media spotlight, many people felt the Church was in the wrong in their protest and later was being sued by Mr. Snyder for $10.9 million dollars for emotional distress. The Church immediately fought back claiming the amount was too excessive and that they were protected by the first amendment to peacefully assemble. After much debate the case was eventually brought before the Supreme Court. After viewing the case the Supreme Court stated, “Whether the First Amendment prohibits holding Westboro liable for its speech in this case turns largely on whether that speech is of public or private concern.” (2010) and came back with an eight to one vote in favor of the Westboro Church. The reasoning behind the decision was that due to the nature of the signs being of broad topics, the distance held by the group, and Chief Justice Roberts stated, “The fact that Westboro spoke in connection with a funeral ... cannot by itself trump the nature of Westboro's speech.” The view of Mr. Snyder and many Americans felt angered and disappointed, feeling that “common sense or courtesy” would have won the case. In the case of Snyder v Phelps it shows just how the first amendment protects someone’s rights, whether we agree with them or not. For history has shown us how tragedy can strike when such rights weren’t present and protected. Such a tragedy happened on May 4th, 1970 at Kent State University.
Four deaths and nine wounded. This was the tragedy that followed after the Ohio National Guard...