Well, Fred Phelps and his gaggle of catamites took a nasty hit in Federal court today.
Almost $12 million in hits, to be exact.
As amusing and gratifying as that is, there are a surprising number of folks protesting the verdict on First Amendment grounds.
One more time from the top, ladies and gentlemen:
"The First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
The Federal Governments only role in this trial was as arbitrator between two private parties -- as it should be.
Was the plaintiff in this case -- the grieving father -- was he actually Congress? Did the Federal Government actually file suit? Provide the finances to sue? Have anything to do with the lawsuit other than to arbitrate?
Then how does the First Amendment -- like the other original ten amendments a check to government power-grabbing -- how does the First Amendment restriction against the government abridging the freedom of speech apply in a private dispute between two private citizens?
When you say that the decision in this case violates Fred Phelp's First Amendment rights, you are saying:
"That private citizen can't sue that other private citizen because Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech"
Read that again.
Whole bunch of people (myself among them) consider that the expansion of certain Constitutional issues to be one of the worst evils of the modern American government. The Interstate Commerce Clause, for example, was never meant to be used as a justification for what it covers now.
On that same note, anyone who complains about the slow creep of the Federal Government into areas that don't concern it -- well, folks, that includes the slow creep of the First Amendment out of government regulation and into private citizen regulation.
This grieving father was hurt by Phelps and -- as provided for in our system of Government -- turned to civil litigation to provide relief.
A jury of his peers listened to his case, debated it and found justification for damages and relief. That is how our system works.
"That private citizen should not be allowed to sue that other private citizen because Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech"
-- and make no mistake, that is EXACTLY what those arguing against this verdict on First Amendment grounds are saying -- not only defies logic, but it goes against the very bedrock our legal system is founded on.
"Your Rights End Where Mine Begin" is a uniquely American sentiment, and Phelps just got tutored on it -- and his First Amendment rights were neither damaged, nor trampled on during the process.
This is good, and I hope every other person who suffered because those pestilential parasites got stupid at their grief sues the whole stinking Phelps clan into the poorhouse.