Why Westboro Baptist’s Plans to Picket Elizabeth Edwards’s Funeral Might Fail

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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Westboro Baptist Church, the moral bastion from Topeka, Kansas, currently on trial for gay-bashing at a dead soldier's funeral, announced yesterday that it's planning on protesting Elizabeth Edwards's funeral on Saturday. Typically they reserve their hateful, irrational invectives for gay people and, more recently, Muslims, so what are they saying Edwards did to invoke their wrath? Well, there is the statement she made about her son, who died in a car accident at age 16 (“My God could not ... protect my boy”) and a statement she made about her painful struggle with cancer (“I’m not praying to God to save me from cancer”), as well as the sin of attempting in vitro fertilization. But really, asking for reasons from unreasonable people is a fool's errand. The church might be protected by the First Amendment when it comes to what it writes on its website, however legal experts are now saying its proposed actions at Edwards's funeral might not have the same protections. Don Herzog, a First Amendment expert, agreed. "People generally think that if you have a First Amendment right, you get to do whatever you want. But while the government can't criminalize speech, there are limits," he told AOL, adding that Edwards's family could sue the group for inflicting emotional distress.

That's the argument that the Supreme Court is hearing in the current case against Westboro Baptist. But a decision isn't expected until the summer.

In the meantime, Raleigh residents are organizing their own protective measures, with at least two counterprotests planned to put a human buffer between Westboro Baptist picketers and the mourners. "Regardless of your politics, it's just downright rude to bring a protest of this sort to disrupt the mourning process," a group called Line of Love wrote on its Facebook page to organize volunteers. Oh, humanity. You make us feel so conflicted sometimes.


Experts: First Amendment May Not Protect Church's Protest
[AOL]
'Human Buffer' Planned to Shield Edwards Funeral [AOL]
Related: Supreme Court Weighs Privacy and Free Speech Versus Right to Gay-Bash at a Funeral