Snyder V. Phelps Essay

analytical Essay
2117 words
2117 words

According to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, Snyder v. Phelps dealt with the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech and whether to protect or restrict speech dealing with protesters at military funerals. The Westboro Baptist Church was founded in 1955 by Fred Phelps. Since the past twenty years, the church has made public its position on homosexuality in American society and in the military by suggesting that the United States was overly tolerant and military veterans who died in combat did so because the American people were sinners. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church had before protested at the funerals of hundreds of deceased military veteran who died in combat. These protests usually took place on public land such as …show more content…

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how snyder v. phelps dealt with the first amendment's freedom of speech and whether to protect or restrict speech dealing with protesters at military funerals.
  • Analyzes how chief justice roberts wrote the majority opinion for snyder v. phelps, arguing that public discourse is an essential component to guaranteeing freedom of speech protections.
  • Explains that the scholars of first amendment law, in their brief of amicus curiae, argued that public discourse pertaining to free speech should be protected regardless of its offensive nature.
  • Opines that as a nation, we have chosen to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.
  • Analyzes how the chief justice rejected snyder's argument of being a captive audience. the church informed local authorities of their intentions to picket snyder’s funeral.
  • Analyzes how salamanca states that in an ideal society, individuals surround themselves and conduct everyday activities in ways that avoid interactions with concepts and forms of expression that the individual personally find unorthodox, unsettling, and unacceptable.
  • Concludes that the court mistakenly gave targeted hate speech first amendment protections in order to ignore the definition of fighting words.
  • Explains that the john marshall law school's veterans legal support center & clinic, and the chicago school of professional psychology wrote an amici curia in support of snyder.
  • Explains that on the morning of matthew snyder's funeral, respondents could have pickedeted the united states capitol, the white house, supreme court, pentagon, or any of the more than 5,600 military recruiting stations in this country.
  • Explains that justice alito concluded his dissent by stating that "in order to have a society in which public issues can be open and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like petitioner."
  • Analyzes how snyder v. phelps deals with the first amendment and whether or not the amendment protects protesters who protest the funerals of deceased military veterans. chief justice roberts argued that the church was exercising their freedom of speech on public property.

Phelps, welcomed the notion that members of the Westboro Baptist Church wanted to use their First Amendment rights. However, Justice Alito maintained that the manner in which the church expressed themselves does not constitute First Amendment protections because “[t]hey first issued a press release and thus turned Matthew’s funeral into a tumultuous media event. They then appeared at the church, approached as closely as they could without trespassing, and launched a malevolent verbal attack on Matthew and his family at a time of acute emotional vulnerability.” Justice Alito argued that the picketing done by the church caused Snyder grave emotional distress and damage given that Snyder was mentally vulnerable at a moment where a father loses their son. Justice Alito argued that neither Snyder nor his son were public figures. Therefore, Justice Alito pointed out that the church chose to exploit the emotional vulnerability of a private individual. According to Rosalie Levinson of the Suffolk University Law Review, the Court’s ruling on Snyder v. Phelps shows that “the government’s only valid interest is in ensuring peace and tranquility, whereas the real harm posed by fighting words, including targeted hate speech, is not physical violence, but the emotional damage inflicted by the words themselves.” In other words, Levinson is suggesting that the Court’s decision has made it so that individuals can express themselves to the point of inflicting severe emotional harm to others, so long as the expression is lawful and remains peaceful. Levinson articulates that this notion is troublesome considering that “[h]ate speech . . . is often targeted at the least powerful, most vulnerable segments of our society.” In the view of Levinson, mental harm due to hate speech and verbal dehumanization of individuals, which leads to a negative effect on that individual’s physical health with regards to heightened heart

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