My New York Post column today treats yesterday’s 8–1 Supreme Court decision in favor of the odious, funeral-protesting Westboro Baptist Church:
If the First Amendment’s free-speech clause protects anything, it protects the most hateful of speech. If it protects anyone, it protects the meanest and worst among us. And if there is one class of speech protected above all others, it is political speech.
“Speech is powerful,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts for the majority. “It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate…”
We live in a contentious, politically divisive time, one in which emotions run high. Inflammatory speech only serves to exacerbate tensions.
But, as long as peace is maintained, that is precisely its purpose. The court was right to reaffirm it.
Jim Vicevich and I spent some time with this one on the radio this morning, and our callers overwhelmingly agreed with Justice Alito, who wrote the lone dissent. This was not a case about emotion, however, but about the law — and conservatives ought to cheer its implicit rejection of soul-corroding “hate-speech” laws. You can listen to some of our discussion here.
To top it all off, NR’s own Kevin Williamson joined us later in the morning to lob a few grenades into the Lenin Mausoleum in the course of answering some questions about his new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism.