Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Alan Garfield (Widener) has written an op-ed entitled "Hate Funeral Protests? Then Ignore Them." Here's a sample:
If Albert Snyder is going to win on appeal, he will have to convince the Supreme Court that Phelps' speech is somehow different from the many types of offensive speech we already tolerate.
This is a difficult challenge, but not insurmountable. Snyder could convince the court that Phelps crossed the line when he exploited the Snyder family's private personal tragedy to publicize his cause. Or he could convince the court that our expansive tolerance for offensive speech has limits, and targeting funerals is one of them.
Given the facts, the court might be tempted to accept these arguments. But if it does, it will have to explain why every other person offended by harsh political speech can't also sue for damages.
We'll have to see what the Supreme Court says. But in the meantime, our society is already free to deal Phelps' speech the most fatal blow of all. Ignore it.
See also "Supreme Court case touches on complicated rights to free speech, privacy" (Harrisburg, PA's Patriot-News, quoting, among others, Widener's Bob Power).