Opinion

Commentary: In Phelps case, Supreme Court must be cautious

There's a certain justice in the fact that during the same week the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., agreed to hear a case involving Kansas hate-monger Fred Phelps, the first gay couples were legally married in that city.

Phelps' case will be heard this autumn, and involves one of his boorish, repulsive protests. This one took place in Maryland at the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder. The same sad scattering of Phelpsian fools held nonsensical signs proclaiming "Thank God for dead soldiers," "Fag troops" and "Pope in hell."

After the Marine's family won a lawsuit against Phelps, an appeals court threw out a $5 million award, citing First Amendment free speech protections.

A past Supreme Court used similar reasoning, and rightly so: "(E)ven when a speaker or writer is motivated by hatred or ill will his expression (is) protected by the First Amendment …. If it were possible by laying down a principled standard to separate (outrageous speech) from (protected speech), public discourse would probably suffer little or no harm. But we doubt that there is any such standard …"

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

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