Sunday, October 28, 2007

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I strive to be intellectually and morally honest with you, but there are some times when it's unbelievably difficult. Those are the no-win situations where your heart and your head battle for hours and days on end trying to get to something that resembles a compromise.

I came across one of those situations recently involving Rev. Fred Phelps. For those of you unfamiliar with Rev. Phelps, he heads up the church that goes around and protests the funerals of soldiers who died in the current Iraq War, saying God is punishing America for being permissive of homosexuality. Well, one of the parents of a slain soldier, Albert Snyder, is suing Phelps and his church for invasion of privacy after the church protested at Mr. Snyder's son's funeral.

Phelps and his lawyer are using a free speech defense in the lawsuit, claiming that the protestors were 1000 feet away from the church and down a hill where they wouldn't be visible. Personally, I find Phelps and his church to be utter scumbags on par with Larry Flynt for what they've done and the personal anguish they've caused over an unrelated point. Having said that, Phelps has a legitimate free speech claim to an extent.

That extent, ladies and gentlemen, is a concept in First Amendment law known as "fighting words." There are some statements that are designed to provoke a physical action or an emotional response. These words are called "fighting words" and may or may not qualify as free speech. So, Mr. Snyder should be on stronger ground, right?

Not so much. Mr. Snyder's invasion of privacy suit is on somewhat shaky Constitutional ground in that there is no express right to privacy in the Constitution. Courts have ruled we have a privacy right, but that doesn't mean it's there; it simply means the court believes it to be there. But given that there is a precedent for a "right" to privacy combined with the outlandish antics of the defendant and his followers, Mr. Snyder may be able to win this one.

But it doesn't make me feel any better. If the court rules in Phelps's favor, he will continue unabated and perhaps with even more vigor because a court justified his actions. As a human being, it offends me deeply and I can't abide by his actions or statements. If the court rules in Mr. Snyder's favor, it can be used as a model for how to shut off offensive speech. On the surface this may sound pretty nifty, but it can also be used to silence folks that someone else finds offensive, but you don't. As an advocate of free speech, I can't abide that happening, either. Defend a scumbag, or defend free speech.

Like I said, a no-win situation.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know what's funnier--the thought that you think you've been morally and intellectually honest on this blog or that you think you have more than a 5th grader's understanding of Constitutional issues. But please, keep up the good work—your delusions of grandeur are a steady source of amusement.

Now that I’ve seen the source of your claims of being a nationally published writer, I can’t wait to see your response.

ONElaughIsn'tEnough said...

Seems Conselor Lindaman has already moved beyond Maryland courts and has this case before the US Supreme Court as a Constitutional 1st-v-4th amendment issue. This, so soon after being whipped with a rolled up copy for peeing on the fabric of logic.
Well, Tommy, this is a Maryland case based, I'm sure (If you're not the plaintiff's lawyer) on Maryland Invasion of Privacy statute- whatever form that takes. I'll not bother with digging up that relevant citation as it doesn't apply to the isssue you have raised, I'll simply point out it has nothing to do with your "Lesson."
So far as the 4th amendment is concerned, your arguemnt fails, as Phelps' group is not a government entity. This makes your statement-"Mr. Snyder's invasion of privacy suit is on somewhat shaky grounds in that there is no express right to privacy in the Constitution."- even funnier, as it isn't relevant in the least to the case.
If this case ever made it to the USSC, it wouldn't be Snyder-v-Phelps, it would be Phelps-v-Maryland, basically, and would be a challenge to the privacy statute based on Phelps' presumed 1st amendment right to fredom of religious expression. This wouldn't happen at all if Phelps prevails in the MD courts.
Didn't you know that states can make their own laws concerning privacy?
Ever consider becoming a movie critic?

TLindaman said...

Boy, One. You must still be stinging from the fact people have mocked your utter lack of Constitutional knowledge after your "brilliant" analysis that the State of the Union requirement somehow relates to appropriations, but Article 1, Section 8, clause 1 which explicitly states Congress spends the money doesn't. LOL

Now, onto the substance of your posts...wait...there is no substance. LOL

Come back when you can actually discuss the subject matter intelligently, One. I'll be in my cryogenic chamber, set to be awakened in, oh, 5000 years.

Can'tTouchONE said...

The only thing your response is lacking, that is, beyond not being able to produce these "Mocking People," is the actual crying and stomping your feet that your juvenile comments imply.
To Mr Anonymous above, now you've seen his response, hope you enjoyed watching the tantrum.
As to your cryogenic chamber- most know that pork doesn't freeze well.
You would do well to embrace Billy Batts' advice from "Goodfellas." Now Tommy - Go get your Shine Box!