Supreme Court justices seemed both troubled and divided Wednesday as they questioned whether a small Kansas church could be punished for an outrageous protest outside a military funeral.
The court did not clearly tip its hand during the hour-long oral argument in the case pitting Westboro Baptist Church against a grieving Pennsylvania father. Several justices did, however, hint that the 2006 funeral protest was lawful even if obnoxious.
“Didn’t they stand where the police told them to?” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted at one point, adding that the protest “was with the knowledge and permission of the police.”
But to underscore the case’s difficulty, Ginsburg herself later questioned whether the First Amendment should “tolerate” what she termed “exploiting a private person’s grief” for the purpose of getting attention.