freedom of speech

The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

The First Amendment is relevant to:

At a funeral for a fallen soldier, a group of churchgoers gathered nearby to sing hymns and recite bible verses. These worshipers, however, were not there to mourn or pay their respects. They were there in protest. 

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church organized a picket to protest the funeral of a marine killed in the line of duty in Iraq. The protestors believed that God kills American soldiers to punish the United States for permitting homosexuals to serve in the military, among other actions. In addition to singing and reciting hymns, the protesters displayed signs that included slogans like, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God Hates the USA,” and “Thank God for IEDs.” The church obtained permits for the protest and staged it on public land near the funeral. 

The father of the slain soldier, Albert Snyder, filed suit in federal district court against Westboro Baptist Church alleging five state tort claims, including intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court ruled in favor of Snyder. Westboro appealed on the grounds that the First Amendment protected the church’s speech. The Court of Appeals agreed with Westboro and reversed. The Supreme Court granted cert.