Bikers protest Westboro Baptist demonstrators at Arlington burial

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by bruno, Oct 5, 2010.

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  1. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/04/AR2010100406662.html?nav=hcmodule

    Good for these Bikers. Why the heck these clowns are allowed to destroy the private moments of a grieving family for their own perverse and perverted purposes is beyond me. Perhaps some of these Bikers could emulate Altamonte at the next opportunity and see if the Phelps family is willing to suffer themselves. (I'm not really advocating that but this group and this practice are absolutely abhorrent to me). Personally I hope that in this case before them the Supreme Court eventually finds that like every other right- the right to free speech is not unfettered by the effect that speech has on other rights.
     
  2. TheKnight

    TheKnight Class of 2014

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    I know one of the bikers personally. It's a great thing they do.
     
  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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  4. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    For such a smarmy answer, that's quite the pedestrian understanding of first amendment limits you have there. In numerous instances the courts have defined reasonable limits to protected speech (obscenity, slander, etc.). If it was obviously protected speech, it wouldn't be before the SCOTUS.
     
  5. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    It's before SCOTUS because a previous decision was appealled and overturned, as it should be. This would be a "limit", it would undo not only the "speech" part of the First Amendment, but the "peacable assemble" part as well. Unless you have any examples of it not being "peacable".

    Bad taste? Sure, completely agree. Horrible signs? Uh huh, definitely. Protected by the First Amendment? Yep, and that's what SCOTUS will find as well.
     
  6. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

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    I don't think it's 'peacable', I think it's provacative. Do you need to have overt violence for it to not be 'peaceable'?
    If signs = speech then large provacative, violent signs = loud, provacative, violent speech.
    I don't know - that is a question for the courts.

    Q. LITS - if they were demonstrating without signs but with a loudspeaker instead - would within the Constitution?
     
  7. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    I suspect I understand the constitution as well as any other reasonably educated person who is not a constitutional lawyer. From what is apparent- NOTHING IN LIFE or THE Constitution is absolute. This issue is in front of the Supreme Court now, so clearly there are reasonable interpretations of the Constitution that recognize that there are grounds for limiting speech and assembly. I believe that there are ZERO rights in the constitution that are not somewhat constrained by other rights. There is no recognized absolute right to free speech- Pornography/ obscenity is widely and allowably curtailed; speech that impacts public safety is curtailed; libelous speech is restricted much more in the US than in the UK for example. Similarly freedom to assemble is governed and restricted when it impacts public safety and for other reasons (For example the courts have allowed restrictions on picketing in front of abortion providers) . So while a Freshman in HS might believe that you can say whatever you want and wherever you want it - that doesn't mean that such a right exists or is interpreted that way. In this case I hope that they find that the states do in fact have a compelling interest in limiting the ability to picket funerals. How many State Attorney General's have filed in support of this position? I believe 48 of them when last counted.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2010
  8. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    I generally don't weigh in on the politically oriented discussions, but I'll put in my $.02, since I haven't seen this particular argument discussed.

    OK, let's say the SCOTUS says that Westboro Baptist is within its First Amendment rights demonstrating outside of a cemetary and they now move their protests outside of hospitals where HIV patients are being treated for their similar distasteful reasons.

    Now I know that there are rules about noise around hospitals that are constitutional (at least nobody has challenged them), but if these knuckleheads set up their demonstration in the view of patients' rooms, does this fall under the same thinking? There are legitimate rights of people who are vulnerable to have their peace protected and the right to honk your horn (as political speech) is restricted. Does non-noise making political speech get different treatment?

    IMHO, the attendees at a funeral are every bit as vulnerable as a hospital patients (yes a few people have died at funerals from the grief) and deserve the same protections from agressive actions that would normally be protected as free speech.

    Why this argument hasn't been presented effectively to shut this activity down is beyond me. The First Amendment is not absolute, with plenty of carve outs if you study the law carefully. This isn't a huge reach from an already established (at least in practice) restriction of protecting patients at hospitals.
     
  9. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    The appeals process is not simply a matter of "I don't like mom's decision so I'll ask dad." There must be an avenue of appeal.

    You're far more sure of the outcome than the SCOTUS is, as they agreed to hear the case and did not exclude it yesterday like they did with myriad other cases, which would have upheld the lower court's decision. They see merit in the avenue of appeal that has been taken.

    Your understanding of the limits of the various liberties in the First Amendment is submarining your argument. Courts have also upheld that "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" does not grant free reign for any group to do anything, anywhere, anytime they wish. If it did, cities could not require permits to assemble on public land. There are limits which frame these liberties.

    In this case, Snyder v. Phelps, et al, the issue at hand is whether the precedents and arguments set forth in New York Times v. Sullivan and Hustler Magazine v. Falwell stand in this case. Specifically, the Hustler case protects injurious speech not based on provable facts about public figures, because even false speech "honestly believed" contributes to the greater public debate which surrounds admittedly pubic figures.

    Snyder is arguing that the circuit court was wrong to extend the protection of injurious speech not based on provable facts, even that spoken "out of hatred" to a case involving a private figure instead of a public figure. At the time of the funeral, Snyder himself was certainly not a public figure. Central to the argument is the idea that while speech about a public figure may be distressing and injurious to a reputation, public figures enjoy the opportunity for public redress and recourse against their defamers while private parties do not.

    Further, Snyder has argued that the attendees at a funeral constitute a captive audience. When a captive audience is involved, the government may limit the exercise of otherwise protected (free) speech, because the audience has no reasonable recourse to escape such speech. This doctrine has been upheld in many cases, and is used to prevent a wide range of distasteful and injurious speech. Snyder's argument is actually interesting and well-thought-out, as he contends that an individual at the funeral cannot avoid the hateful speech without becoming a non-attendee, just as a student cannot avoid such speech in school without becoming a non-student (hence your public school can limit speech as well).

    It's not so cut-and-dried. Saying "that little thing called the Constitution" hardly frames the issues at hand.
     
  10. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    Westboro Baptist already protests outside of hospitals.

    VA hospitals, as well as civilian hospitals.

    All the while holding their vile, disgusting, hateful, Constitutionally protected signs.
     
  11. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    You're misconstruing the precedents and definitions of "peaceable." IIRC, unless they specifically incite a breach of the peace, the assemble is protected. A disorderly crowd, or the fear of one, is not enough to abridge the right to assemble.
     
  12. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    I'm sorry to hear that. :mad:

    What I'm trying to wrap my head around is that if they honk their horns, they can be ticketed (and removed if necessary) under local ordinances, but holding signs that have the same effect on the patients inside who can see them cannot be regulated.

    And the SCOTUS allegedly protects both verbal and non-verbal speech in the same manner in every case I can think of. I'm scratching my head here...

    I for one would be happy to have places where vulnerable people congregate be zoned for reasonable restrictions on speech and behavior. Not an unreasonable restriction and currently done to some degree.

    Hopefully, the SCOTUS can keep the ruling simple like this and help the country move on.

    Let those folks protest around people who are strong enough to deal with it.
     
  13. goldfarb1

    goldfarb1 Candidate

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    They came to Atlanta around this time a year ago. They were mainly protesting the jewish community here. The three events they put on: a protest of the JCC (as they believed that the JCC was trying to organize jews to rule the world), an AIPAC event in downtown Atlanta (thought zionism was trying to takeover the world), and something at a synagouge. As you can see a completely rediculous organization. A ton of people went to counterprotest.

    Watch the youtube videos of WBC protesting at military funerals, its terrible. There was a BBC documentary where a BBC reporter went and lived with the family for a month. If you have an hour to shoot, that'll really get your blood boiling.
     
  14. sprog

    sprog Member

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    I think it's the 1969 Brandenburg case which says that an assembly cannot incite "imminent lawless action" and still be protected. This is the current test, although it has roots in the Schenck case, where Justice Holmes famously said that the Constitution does not allow someone to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre. Schenck isn't good law anymore (the "clear and present danger" test was overturned by the "imminent lawless action" test), but the Holmes quote is pretty famous.

    Essentially, what you said.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2010
  15. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    Yes, curiously I have never seen them protesting at the funeral of the Crips, Bloods, or Hell's Angels.
     
  16. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I just wonder....where do you draw the line?

    The signs are terrible. I don't agree with them, and I believe most reasonable people don't either.

    If I see a sign with President Bush dressed like Hitler at a "rally" and it incites me to fight....is that sign still protected? If I don't agree with a sign because it's entirely classless, and it gets my blood preasure up....is it still protected?

    I hope the answer is yes. I applaud the bikers counter-protests.

    These soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen died to protect these rights, as much as it might make us all sick.

    I dread the day when our federal government bans classless, offensive posters and words just because SOMEONE doesn't like them.

    Maybe no one cares about the slippery slope, however, I do. As much as trimming the Constitution and Bill of Rights makes us feel good...just because someone does something we don't like, it doesn't mean we can ban it. I would venture to guess signs showing support would upset the Westboro protesters....well they're Americans too, so maybe we shouldn't be able to march with Pro-military signs, in the event that we offend some anti-military loser who wants to fight.

    Ah forget it, let's just ban mean words and things we don't like. I would like to ban dentist appointments and public speaking engagements. I would also like to ban work, cold rain, and paper cuts.
     
  17. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    There's a reason the slippery slope is frequently a logical fallacy. In this case, it most certainly is. That's quite the straw man you've set up. By your reasoning, free speech allows people to say ANYTHING, no matter how dangerous, injurious, or maliciously false. Is it a fair characterization of your viewpoint to say that you think anything less is an erosion of free speech and will lead us down the "slippery slope" to censorship of all speech?
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2010
  18. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Over simplification....again.


    Actions that HURT other or are DANGEROUS are already exceptions. You would attempt to take this a step further. That would actually illustrate that slippery slope CERTAINLY applies here.

    "I don't like what they have on their signs" therefore it shouldn't be on those signs or I shouldn't have to look at them.

    These signs are libel. They aren't naming specific people. Yes, they attack the military, but so do a select few in Congress or presidential hopefuls.

    "dangerous, injurious, or maliciously false" please show me what is dangerous here? Who is being injuried, and why? And who is judging their outragious statements as false? Do you think the Supreme Court will declare that "God Loves "F##s" or that members of the military are in Heaven. Despite the extremely poor taste of the signs, and how much I disagree with everything the Westboro Baptist Church stands for in these protests, I don't think the Supreme Court will be rulling on the intent of God, at least, not this court. So what is "dangerous, injurious, or maliciously false"?

    Soutpilot, that is the dilemma. Now, who is being hurt here? What rights are being violated?
     
  19. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    And yet I'm still puzzled as to why this has gone into a constitutional debate.

    We regulate behavior around hospitals, protecting those who are weak from illness, so why can't we regulate behavior around cemetaries, protecting those who are weak from loss, another condition that is typically beyond our control?

    I don't care about what political statement or non-political (commercial) statement is being made. The example of a non-political statement would be to having an electronic billboard on the primary access road to a cemetary playing scenes from the latest graphic gory movie - not political speech, but none the less behavior that can and should be regulated as a detriment to a necessary public service. This is not dissimilar to keeping adult video shops away from schools and other places young people congregate as they need protection because they are vulnerable.

    No the reason this is NEWS is that the political views expressed are very extreme and the media loves to stir the pot (getting advertising eyes and generate income) by feeding these people ultimate goal - the need for attention. Public figures make statements to piggyback on the attention for their own purposes.

    Call me a cynic, but this whole thing wouldn't be an issue if the media didn't make it one. Just have ordinances on the books prohibiting behavior of any type that disturbs the proscribed use of a cemetary or hospital and quickly arrest the knuckleheads who violate the ordiance. Turn off the TV when the reporters broadcast this wailing by the protesters and contact the advertisers on that broadcast with your feelings about the news coverage. I personally have changed the channel whenever I see those news stories. I read the headlines about the appeal to the SCOTUS, but I'm not following the case. That is why I was unaware of the hospital protests. I find the existance of this news story to be an indictment of our society in how we sensationalize things rather than deal with things like this.

    I don't condemn those who follow it. In many ways it is like rubber-necking at an auto accident - hard to avoid at times, but generally only bad things come from rubber-necking (never heard a positive thing). I suspect the same can be said of this case.
     
  20. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Yes, you have been doing it from step one.

    Nope. You're falling into the Non Causa Pro Causa fallacy. You're saying that A leads to B which leads to C which leads to D. Your argument is formally correct but logical unsound. You cannot assume B and C to be true or inevitable without proving the inevitability and causation at each step. If you read the court opinions, you will see that there's no evidence of the causality you're assuming. In reality, over the past 100 years, first amendment protections have been expanded by courts in the face of public opposition--the exact opposite result of the slippery slope to which you say any new limitation of distasteful speech leads. I won't even go into the vagueness fallacy, but needless to say, unless you can show a cogent argument for each intermediate step, it can't be called a slippery slope.

    Nope.

    Read the case. Seriously. Read NY Times v. Sullivan. Read Hustler v. Falwell. Otherwise, you'll keep missing the point.
     
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