June 01, 2011

Freedom of Speech: Inglorious Bastards and Patriotic Americans

Charles D. Tobin

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Why do we rely on the expressions of despicable people to bring us such great First Amendment law? Can anyone envision a more unlikeable group than the Westboro Baptist Church crowd? Did they really have to pick public property 1,000 feet from the funeral
of a war hero, Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, to protest their dislike for American society’s growing acceptance of gay people?

Yet, with a heavy sigh of resignation—knowing that, to preserve healthy debate, we must often protect malignant hatemongers—we greet the entry of the banner on the church’s signs, “God Hates Fags,” into the lexicon of constitutionally protected speech.

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