The case is about violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees an individual the right of speech but as with other civil liabilities, the freedom is not guaranteed. For example, you cannot incite some acts of violence. You cannot sell the military secretes of your country to the enemy during war, you cannot slander other people without any consequence. In a case entitled Snyder v. Phelps, concerning whether the first amendment gives protection to a pastor (Phelps) and members of Westboro church charged with infliction of emotional disturbance filled by father (Snyder) of a fallen soldier whose funeral happened to have a protect rally by the Westboro church. The church is accused by the complainant to have let their demonstrations interfere with a funeral of the complainant’s son.
Key Issues of the Case
If at all the First Amendment protects the public speech of Westboro church in the funeral in that public speech is of the first priority in the First Amendment and hence is liable to special protection, even though the limits of what makes speech of issues that concern the public are not defined clearly, the Court said that speech was determined to be of concern of the public when referring to the political, social, or other matters concerning the community. So as to verify whether the speech concerns the public, the Court should examine the whole context of the speech independently as shown by the record presented. Context of the Westboro speech was found to relate to the matters of public concern.
Recovering for intrusion of seclusion by the church to Snyder may not be possible. He said that he was part of the captive audience during his son’s burial but the doctrine of the captive audience does not apply to the present circumstances since Westboro stayed away from the memorial service where Snyder could not see the picketers from and plus there was no evidence of the funeral service being interfered by the picketing.
Snyder also cannot recover for public conspiracy by the fact that he cannot also recover for recovery for intrusion upon his seclusion i.e. the fact that he cannot prove that the church intruded his private affairs, he cannot also prove that it was a civil conspiracy.
Westboro addressed matters concerning property of the public in a proven peaceful manner with full consent and guidance of local authorities. They displayed matters on the public residence hence public property and did not in any way interfere with the complainant’s privacy since they could neither be seen nor heard from the memorial service.
Decision of the Supreme Court on the Case
Since the Nation seeks to protect even hurtful public speech concerning public issues i.e. touching public issues of great concern, Westboro must therefore be shielded against tort liability for the church’s picketing in the case. This was so as to protect the putting forward of matters concerning the public by members of the public, for example, social matters that is violence in this case (Injury, 2011).
Is a written opinion by one or more judges in a legal case expressing disagreement with opinion of the majority of the Court gives rise to its judgment? The dissenting opinion does not however create the binding precedent neither can it be part of the case law. Justice Alito said that the means used by the church consisted of speech, and pointed out that the speech in this case harmed a private individual.
How I Could Have Ruled the Case
Since the First Amendment offers special protection for public speech concerning public matters of public concern, of which violence is according to Westboro concerns that were being put forward, and plus the fact that the church demonstrated public matters on the public property, I would declare protection of the First Amendment on the action on Westboro church. Snyder’s complains of intrusion of his privacy would be barred by the fact that he could not see or hear from the picketers from the memorial service which the church members respected it because they were aware it were to be private (Gregory, 2011).
My Opinion on Other Limits on the Freedom of Speech
Yes, there should be limits on the First Amendment. Protection on public speech venue should be limited i.e. should not be in places that directly or indirectly interfere with private matters. This is to prevent interference with an individual’s private program.
Protection on the content of the public speech should be restricted to the matters that cannot cause public demonstrations and be harmful to the society. This is to ensure safety of the society. This will also ensure that the public shall not use the amendment to the wishes, plans and lust of one person.
A person’s speech extent should be limited like, for example, selling out one’s country military secrets to the enemy side should be considered as treason and punished by death. Also speaking of the matters that directly and negatively affect the other party or person, they should be taken as an offence so as to curb misunderstandings between citizens (Snyder, 2011).