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By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
Topic - Fred Phelps
Who could blame Pastor Terry Jones for thinking he's the most famous man in the world? In his 15 minutes of fame, he's right up there this week with Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Prince William, Osama bin Laden and Charlie Sheen.
I'm with Samuel A. Alito Jr. - at least in spirit. The associate justice was alone in his dissent in Snyder v. Phelps, in which the U.S. Supreme Court in an 8-1 ruling on Wednesday voided a damage verdict against the Westboro Baptist Church for picketing a Maryland soldier's funeral. You know the Westboro folks. They're the media darlings from Topeka, Kan., who have picketed nearly 600 funerals. The Rev. Fred Phelps and his family brandish signs, the most famous of which is "God Hates Fags." Lately, they've been picketing military funerals with signs such as "God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," saying they got what they deserve because America tolerates homosexuality.
The Supreme Court took on the year's most emotionally charged case Wednesday and, while the justices sharply questioned both sides, they gave little indication of whether they would decide if a fringe group of protesters could be sued for wielding inflammatory, anti-military signs at the funerals of troops.
The Supreme Court is set to decide whether members of a fundamentalist church in Kansas who picketed soldier's funeral with signs bearing anti-gay and anti-Catholic invective have a constitutional right to say what they want.
The Supreme Court's upcoming term will include the most emotionally charged freedom-of-speech case in recent history along with the usual assortment of high-profile challenges focusing on hot-button issues such as immigration and prosecutorial misconduct.
Ms. Phelps said such speech regarding race is a "matter of public concern," though she hedged a bit saying that "approaching an individual up close and in their grille to berate them gets you out of the zone of protection, and we would never do that."
"I don't know, in the context of a war, if I can give a definitive answer to that," Ms. Phelps said. "It was not an issue of seeking maximum publicity; it was an issue of using an existing public platform to bring a viewpoint that was not being articulated."