The US constitution states many things but today’s focus is on one specific area, “ .. or the right of the people peaceably to assemble..” This means that under the US constitution you have the right to assemble in meeting, marches, etc. as long as its peaceful, but with that comes some grey area. In many cases the ideas being marched for or meet upon can be very controversial resulting in small feuds to large supreme court cases. An example that some might recognize would be the Snyder v. Phelps case. In this case Snyder, father of US marine, sued Westboro Baptist Church for protesting outside of his sons funeral. The protest was held as a way to protest the government. Their overall message was because there are laws protecting LGBT community members bad things happen in america. Essentially, if we take away the rights of gay people, wars, deaths, corruption, etc. will all go away. At first the family was granted 5 million in damages, but the supreme court ruled different after the case passed the O’brien test. The O’brien test is a 4 part standard used by the supreme court to determine whether the first amendment is protecting the defense, in this case, the Westboro Baptist Church. This decision was ruled (9-1) stating that the first amendment does protect them. Do you agree? Does the first amendment protect people’s right to protest? When the question is put in such a simple way the answer is very clear, yes, but when you add in “at a marines funeral, with a sign that reads words like “fag”’ the answer seems less clear.
Personally, I don’t really understand why the protest needed to be held at a funeral of someone who doesn’t even identify under the LGBT community, but instead a Marine or part of the government. Whether you agree with someone/something or not there still needs to be some kind of common respect, and at the end of the day everyone deserves to be treated in a humane way. Contrary to my opinion on what’s right and what’s wrong technically Westboro is protected under the US constitution. This article gives citizens the right to protest whatever they want really. Maybe a better way to see it would be putting a different lense on Westboro’s cause. Say that they were protesting peace, and their signs said things like “Vote to bring our troops home”. Then is it okay? I feel like if the cause being protest is supported by the majority public it’s more likely to be looked at as a positive “peaceful” protest. When the cause isn’t supported it’s more taboo and seen as “hateful”. Then again the question isn’t who’s right or wrong, but who is protected under the constitution.
The end goal for everyone is equal rights, so it makes sense that if you have the right to protest what you want, so does your neighbor. To take away the rights of your neighbor because you don’t agree is unconstitutional and not equal. Despite the hateful, unequal perspective of the Westboro’s message, they still have the right to protest their beliefs under the 1st amendment.