The Ugly Side of Freedom
No. 1 cable news host Bill O’Reilly said Tuesday that he will personally write a check to cover $16,500 in legal costs for the father of a fallen U.S. Marine who sued the members of a church who picketed his son’s funeral.
Albert Snyder filed a federal lawsuit against the church, and a jury awarded him nearly $11 million dollars for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. But the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the verdict on the grounds that the church’s First Amendment right to free expression must be protected.
Adding insult to injury, the court also ruled that Snyder would have to pay $16,500 to church members, to defray what they spent to defend themselves in court.
This is absolutely outrageous and Bill O’Reilly is right to support this man’s case against the Westboro Baptist Church [sic].
I am all about freedom of speech, I truly do, but we also need to accept the ugly side of this freedom. Furthermore, there is freedom of speech and then there’s incitement to violence—and that is what the Westboro Baptist Church does.
This hurts my brain, to be honest. On one hand, absolute freedom of speech would protect even incitement to violence but this type of hate group should not be allowed to continue in this fashion. In my opinion, they should be allowed to continue protesting but expect to get sued again and again, at a cost of $11 million dollars for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress—and be forced to pay it each and every time: a war of attrition.
No one said there wouldn’t be consequences to that freedom of speech.
On the other hand, even the absolutist view of the First Amendment is not absolute. According to the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the Absolutist approach argues that:
…the only question is whether the action in conduct is truly "speech" (and therefore protected) or "conduct" (and therefore subject to reasonable governmental regulation.
So even considering an absolutist view, it can be argued that the Westboro Baptist Church conduct should not be protected under the First Amendment.