It’s time to ban Fred Phelps from soldiers’ funerals

Most Americans, myself included, believe in the First Amendment’s vital role in our democracy and are willing to tolerate noxious expressions of free speech in its defense. But even if this right allows one to spread hate through speech, it does not alter the wrongfulness of targeting a particular individual with that speech, whether by intentionally inflicting emotional distress on a grieving parent or by criminally invading a person’s privacy during his most intimate moments.

My office will continue to use whatever tools are at its disposal to seek justice for those citizens whose privacy is ruined by others’ attempts to spread hate at their victims’ expense. That is why, in Snyder v. Phelps, I joined attorneys general from 47 states and the District to argue that the right to free speech must be limited where the speech is targeted at individuals during moments as private as a funeral. Ultimately, the Snyder case shows that one group’s exercise of rights can have potentially harmful consequences for another’s, and no matter what the court decides in this case, those consequences can never be fully avoided.

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