The Supreme Court Justices ruled 8-1 this week that under the First Amendment, the Westboro Baptist Church does not have to pay damages to the father of a Marine for protesting his son’s funeral. While protesting, the group also carried signs stating, “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned an earlier ruling, which awarded money to Albert Synder, who sued the Westboro Baptist Church, for the intentional infliction of emotional distress,” according to the New York Times.
Justice John Roberts clarified, “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…we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was the sole dissenting vote in the case, writing “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”
The Westboro Baptist Church, founded by Reverend Fred Phelps in Kansas, is known for its fierce anti-gay rhetoric, hate speech, and protests at the anti-gay protests at military funerals.