(Brandenburg v. Ohio) v. (Snyder v. Phelps). KKK Counter-Protest Westboro Baptists

May 30th, 2011

Some of our most important free speech cases involve people who are morally reprehensible. Brandenburg v. Ohio involved Clarence Brandenburg, a member of the Ku Klux Klan in Ohio. Snyder v. Phelps involved Fred Phelps, the leader of the despicable Westboro Baptists. Today, on Memorial Day, these two cases clashed head on: the Ku Klux Klan counter-protested the Westboro Baptists at Arlington Cemetery. From CNN:

Protesting members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church were met with an unlikely group of counter-protesters Monday at Arlington Cemetery.

Hours before President Barack Obama led the nation’s Memorial Day observances at the Tomb of the Unknowns, three members of the Westboro Baptist Church were challenged by others who disagreed with them — including members claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan.

Among those counter-protesting at the cemetery’s main entrance: About 10 members of a group that claims to be a branch of the Ku Klux Klan from Virginia called the Knights of the Southern Cross. They were cordoned off separately in a nearby area, but drew little attention as they gave out small American flags behind a banner that read “POW-MIA.”

The Klan recognized (perhaps for quite some time) that the way to stifle speech they disagree with is to promote their own type of (in this case hateful) speech.

They said they were there to object to the Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-troop message.

“It’s the soldier that fought and died and gave them that right to free speech,” said Dennis LaBonte, the self-described “Imperial Wizard” of the KKK group that he said he formed several years ago.

And this is rich. A member of the Westboro Baptists said that the Klan lacks moral authority!

“That’s fine,” said Abigail Phelps, the daughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps. “They have no moral authority on anything.

“People like them say it’s white power … white supremacy,” Phelps said. “The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that it’s an abomination to be born of a certain gender or race.”

Update: This would make a mean fact pattern. The Westboro Baptists are protesting at a military funeral and the Ku Klux Klan rallies, inciting violence for the Baptists. Discuss.