Drawing the Line
“Speech is powerful. 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.”
—Chief Justice John G. Roberts, U.S. Supreme Court, Snyder v. Phelps (2011), a case involving the reprehensible speech of the Westboro Baptist Church, a group that pickets near the funerals of slain soldiers.
(See David L. Hudson, “Chief Justice Roberts and the First Amendment,” The Freedom Forum, April 22, 2011)
• Editorial Comment: It’s a tricky line between protected odious hate speech and crying fire in a crowded theater. (But, of course, there’s always this, attributed to Voltaire: “I disagree with your words, but I will defend to the death your right to say them.”)
• Reading List: Columbia Journalism Review has published reading suggestions from selected journalists/Jprofs. Can’t say as I agree (or even have heard of!) all of these, but interesting. Better get caught up.
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