On October 7, 2010, I visited Mr. Zanoni’s AP Government Class at Somerset High School in Somerset, PA. I gave a lecture to the students on Snyder v. Phelps. I delivered this lecture the day after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Snyder v. Phelps. Coincidentally, I was at the Supreme Court the evening before, and I filmed an interview with Orlando Bethel, a supporter of Reverend Phelps. Orlando was wearing a shirt that read “God Hates Muslims.” I played a clip from this video to get the students to understand exactly what type of odious speech the Court is considering.
The class discussion begins around the 4:00 mark. The class was very well prepared, and engaged in the constitutional topics with sophistication. The vast majority of the students understood how horrible the Phelps protest was, but were still willing to protect it, relying on a strong view of the First Amendment. I even teased the class with several of the hypotheticals from oral arguments, including Justice Alito’s stellar hypo about Phelps accosting Snyder’s grandmother at the busstop outside the cemetery. I am fairly certain that the answer from the students was more eloquent than the answer given by Ms. Phelps who argued this case.
The Harlan Institute is recruiting attorneys and law students to visit classrooms, and use Harlan lesson plans to discuss the Constitution through the vehicle of current Supreme Court Cases. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact the Harlan Institute Mentorship Program.