SUMMARY: This isn’t Free Speech, it’s freedom of politico-(pseudo-)religious gang-persecution organized on a national basis against random mourners (as such) uninvolved in the grievances supposedly being protested by Funeral Invasion.
Mob pseudo-religious persecution of mourners’ Free Exercise of Religion — the Baptists’ “speech” is usually not on-point, but irrelevant to the life and death circumstances of the decedent at funerals they INVADE — is just like the mob persecution of Christians in Turkey, long winked at by a supposedly-secularist State. It violates the civil rights of decedents and their grieving survivors. Only an unholy alliance between the Court’s fellow-fundamentalists and its (this time) misguided “liberals” would rule that the civil rights of off-topic, political, media-hog, worship-invaders trump Freedom of Religion.
Yes, all defenses of Westboro defend their protests as political, though they are veiled in religion. If (Westboro) politics now trumps (everybody else’s) religion, maybe the rest of the Religious Right IS right, that religious freedom is being flushed down the toilet with the politicization of everything — IRONICALLY, BY THEM!
Another way of approaching it is that the Religious Right, a vast well-organized group, may now abuse its “rights” to violate the rights of usually-tiny groups of mourners anywhere in the country — not unlike the invasive, disgusting, terroristic tactics of Operation “Rescue” abortion-clinic protesters and their incited gunmen / bombers / racketeers / conspirators. If the Bill of Rights is about anything, it’s about protecting the rights of the oppressed — not only those oppressed by governments or officials, but by their fellow human beings in this country generally, especially by groups bigger than them. Look for other hate groups to go back to the Courts now for vindication against explicit civil rights legislation — the Ku Klux Klan, “sovereign citizens,” (neo?)Nazis, self-appointed “militias” and border guards, “Dot Busters,” ‘crosshairs’ assassins, the whole sorry, scary lot of them. What will the lawless Scalia/Roberts Court say then? Cross-burnings and lynchings are OK again? Literacy tests and poll taxes for voting? Forced segregation of public schools? ‘The disabled or mentally ill, gay or “different,” should be neither seen nor heard’? Torching Catholic churches? Slavery? Human females as their males’ property? State-Established religions again? Swastikas scrawled on synagogues’ outside walls are OK because they don’t violate the “privacy” of the interior of the building??!! It seems the Court liberals, including two Jewish women and a “wise Latina,” have been tricked into signing on to the rollback of the whole 20th century, if not worse. (And Clarence Thomas? Nevermind!!!)
Ironically, this unholy alliance represents the difference between Classical Liberalism, in all its forms, and Classical Conservatism, ie, progressive conservatism … the former represented by the whole near-unanimous Court Westboro majority, the latter represented by most Americans’ gut-reaction to Westboro’s atrocities, and this ruling, more bad law, ie, incorrect law, from the Republican Courts and Party.
Learn about the ascendant hate groups and domestic terrorists from the Southern Poverty Law Center, and support the SPLC.
And how did this case become merely about “privacy and emotional distress“? The mourners’ lawyers should be disbarred for incompetence! Were they law students?! Was this one of those volunteer, workshop, law school projects they do???
Furthermore, does the ruling consider that funeral “privacy” only applies inside a building-of-worship, funeral parlor, chapel, mausoleum, etc.? What about processions outdoors, burials, cemeteries, motorcades, even the going TO the funeral by the mourners — Some Protestant services even sacralize this with a “Gathering for Worship” recitation or song. What about Neopagans, adherents of Indigenous religions, or other “outdoorsy” faiths, which might not often even USE a building with a real “indoors” component? Obviously outdoor portions of a funeral share the vicinity with the neighbors, if any, of the funeral sites, so that’s presumed within Free Exercise. I’m not sure being attacked, verbally assaulted, or finding yourselves involuntarily amid a political demonstration, controversy, or riot, especially one featuring offensive language, IS presumed within Free Exercise, except during times of Persecution of your freely-chosen (or -retained) religion … something the Court seems to endorse today, even its Fundies! (Appropriate, I suppose, since their fellow Repugs drove the President out of the church of his choice, then complained he wasn’t Christian enough! “I played you a tune but you did not dance, I sang you a dirge but you did not wail….”)
I’m willing to consider that baptisms/circumcisions, funerals, and weddings aren’t the same as routine religious services which might be invaded by hecklers urging you to change your religion. I’m not sure though! When I was a Quaker in the 1990s I admired George Fox and his Friends’ doing so in 17th-century Anglican and other Protestants’ “meetinghouses.” Maybe they would’ve really converted England if they’d just waited till after services, and stumped outside the buildings as the faithful were leaving! But IIUC these Baptists aren’t recruiting, merely advocating for their ethical or political positions. And often their protests seem aimed not at anyone present, except the newsmedia. That’s just rude … Supremely rude.