Snyder v. Phelps will be First Amendment test for Supreme Court

The Kansas City StarOctober 6, 2010 

Under our First Amendment, there seem few — very few — social lines that cannot be crossed in this country.

Flags can be burned, Nazis can march, profanity be displayed, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. Like legal Spandex, free speech is stretched and stretched to cover some ugly things, making many of us uncomfortable in the process.

Waving signs that proclaim "God Hates America" and "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" outside a funeral for a fallen serviceman?

Will this fit, too? Lower courts have disagreed.

So today, the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices will hear Snyder v. Phelps.

"We're going to court saying there's a line somewhere," said Craig Trebilcock, one of the attorneys for the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who died four years ago in Iraq. "A group trying to use a claim of religion, or a claim of some sort of free speech, cannot use it as a club to harass, demean and crush a family."

Rising from the other table will be the daughter of one of the most controversial — and some argue notorious — men in Kansas history, the Rev. Fred Phelps, pastor of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church.

"It's not a First Amendment case, it is the First Amendment case," Margie Phelps, attorney for Westboro Baptist, said last week. "It's the ultimate test on whether this republic is real. The point of a republic is to protect from mob rule the dissenting view."

The church's dissenting view is that God reviles America for its tolerance of homosexuality and that deaths of military personnel are divine retribution.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansascity.com.

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