In 2011, the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder organized by the soldier’s father Albert Snyder in Westminster, Maryland, was picketed by Fred Phelps and the members of his family belonging to the Westboro Baptist Church. Phelps proclaimed that the deaths of soldiers should be discussed as God’s punishment for the nation’s tolerant attitude toward homosexuality (“Snyder v. Phelps”). Private interests of Albert Snyder were challenged by the public protest organized by Phelps to affirm his opinion.
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Basing on the US Constitution’s First Amendment, the Supreme Court stated the right of the Westboro Baptist Church’s members to express their opinion freely. The decision of the Supreme Court should be considered as appropriate and relevant for the case of Snyder v. Phelps because the First Amendment protects the right of the persons and organizations to express their viewpoints freely, in spite of their content, as it is one of the most important rights presented in the democratic society.
According to the US Constitution’s First Amendment, there should not be laws “abridging the freedom of speech” or restricting “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” (“US Constitution”). The participants of the protest organized before the funeral ceremony in Westminster, Maryland, did not violate any laws or regulations. Their actions are protected with references to the First Amendment.
Although the personal interests of Albert Snyder are involved, the representatives of the Westboro Baptist Church intended to protest against the social rules and controversial norms without discussing personalities or personal issues. The participants of the demonstration behaved peacefully, they did not prevent the funeral ceremony, and they kept the distance in relation to the church and the family of Snyder (“Hill v. Colorado”).
The Supreme Court’s decision should be affirmed because Phelps organized the protest which formally did not violate any norms which can be discussed as the reasons to prohibit the demonstration. Snyder was offended by the fact of organizing demonstration and by the content of signs. The choice of the place for protesting the social issues which is the territory of the Roman Catholic Church and the fact of the demonstration can be discussed as a specific example of the expressive conduct (“Texas v. Johnson”).
Free speech and opinion are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution without references to its form in order to predict the restriction of the people’s right to express viewpoints openly. In spite of the fact the content of signs such as “God Hates You” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” can be discussed as offensive from Snyder’s point of view, the content of speeches, signs, and posters can be different, depending on the intention and message of the speaker (“Snyder v. Phelps”; “Virginia v. Black”).
Although Snyder can discuss the protest as offensive for his personal visions and the memory of his son, the right of Phelps and his followers to organize the demonstration with references to the mentioned points is protected by the First Amendment because no rules regarding demonstrations were violated.
The protest organized by the representatives of the Westboro Baptist Church aimed to draw the public’s attention to the social and religious issues such as the problem homosexuality in the society and the problem of the war. Developing the protest, Fred Phelps and his followers used the right to speak freely and openly without violating the norms and private interests, and without disrupting the funeral ceremony.
Supreme Court of the United States: Snyder v. Phelps. 2011. PDF file. Web.
US Constitution. 2013. Web.