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Privacy Rights vs. Free Speech - U.S. Supreme Court's New Term

On the first Monday of every October, the United States Supreme Court begins a new term and schedules arguments on new cases.  This new term, which begins next week on October 4th, will be no different.

On Wednesday, October 6th, the Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a case that has received national attention regarding the rights of a small, extreme right-wing church from Kansas to publicly - and loudly - protest at funerals of U.S. service members who have been killed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The issue is positioned so that the Court will be expected to decide on a “balancing test” between the privacy rights of the grieving families and the free speech rights of the church members and their demonstrations. 

As despicable as the actions of the protesters are, and disturbing and provocative their anti-gay message, the Court is expected to set new guidelines on a broad range of 1st Amendment (free speech) events, including protests.  Many states throughout the country have attempted to impose specific limits on when and where this church may conduct their horrible protests, and the Court is expected to rule on just how far the states can go to justify policies which are, after all, meant to silence the protesters’ 1st amendment rights to free speech and assembly. 

Regardless of how you feel on the subject (I would hope that almost every American is disgusted by the antics of this rogue church and its members), the right to free speech given to all Americans is at issue, and it sets the stage for a very real and important decision regarding one of the most elementary and basic rights guaranteed by our Constitution.  As a lawyer, I am very interested in seeing how our top court decides the issue.

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