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LSTD 510 American Public University System First Amendment Discussion

LSTD 510 American Public University System First Amendment Discussion

Question Description

250 word discussion response, 1 source.

The family of deceased Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder filed a lawsuit against members of the Westboro Baptist Church who picketed at his funeral. The family accused the church and its founders of defamation, invasion of privacy and the intentional infliction of emotional distress for displaying signs that said, “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Fag troops” at Snyder’s funeral (1). U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett awarded the family $5 million in damages, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the judgment violated the First Amendment’s protections on religious expression. The church members’ speech is protected, “notwithstanding the distasteful and repugnant nature of the words (2).

The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision in an opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. The Court held that the First Amendment shields those who stage a protest at the funeral of a military service member from liability (3). Justice Samuel Alito filed a lone dissent, in which he argued: “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case” (4).

I agree/disagree in part. It is difficult not to argue that Phelps statements were disturbing and upsetting. The intrusion of such private moments of remembrance by angry protestors inspires a different level of hatefulness. However the First Amendment protects groups/ individuals like Phelp given them ability to speak their mind without fear of repercussions.

An example of a situation where a public protest would not be a “matter or public concern” and therefore allowed is the LGBT rallies and protest against the LGBT group.

All LGBT people are potential targets of hate crimes such as criminal threats and assaults. LGBT people of color typically experience more serious hate crimes than white LGBT victims (5). And even though transgender people experience the same types of crimes as lesbian, gay, and bisexual victims, they report higher rates of injury from these incidents.

(1) Snyder v. Phelps, Oyez,

(2) Id.

(3) Id.

(4) Id.

(5) Understanding And Handling Hate Crimes Against Gay, Bisexuals and Transgender People. Scholars Strategy Networking . Retrieved from

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