by Charlie Leck
I wrote in my last blog about the Kansas pastor, Fred Phelps, and how idiotic I think he is. His unbelievable protests at the funerals of our fallen soldiers are disgusting and foolish. What he is teaching his congregation is embarrassing.
In this morning’s local newspaper, a letter to the editor sums up the legal issue and argues that the Supreme Court should not view the Phelps protests as a first amendment right because they actually violate the first amendment rights of others.
I hope it is okay that I republish the letter in full here. Readers around the country should understand the legal point made here. It is a remarkably clear and logical letter.
Letter of the day:Robert Gust is an attorney with offices in Edina, Minnesota.
First Amendment meant to be used as a shield, not a sword
Published: October 8, 2010 - 6:05 PM by the StarTribune of the Twin Cites (Minnesota)
The debate about the repugnant protests at military funerals does not deserve to be a debate at all ("A new test for boundaries of free speech," Opinion Exchange, Oct. 7). The First Amendment -- and for that matter the entire Bill of Rights -- was intended to protect people from government infringement, but it was not intended to be a weapon to be used to infringe on the rights of others. In legal parlance, it is said to be a shield and not a sword.
If 300 people gather to hear a public speaker, nobody has a "free speech" right to disrupt the presentation and interfere with the rights of assembly and speech of others. Similarly, neo-Nazis may have a right to speak or assemble, but they don't have the right to speak or assemble when their actions are specifically designed to interfere with others' First Amendment rights.
The left claims that limiting such disruptive speech will quell the public debate. To he contrary, it will allow such debate to occur in a civilized manner and lead to actual debate instead of the tyranny of the most obnoxious, which currently exists.
ROBERT GUST, Bloomington
I think he errs in the letter above in accusing the left of being entirely on the other side in this issue. It is not. Most progressives would support the opinions and legal principles he states above. It is, nevertheless, good that the issue is being heard before the Supreme Court and I think the ruling that comes down will be nearly unanimous.
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