Even by Crazy Cooch standards, this is bizarre.
Never one to follow the crowd, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has decided against filing an amicus brief in a case before the Supreme Court involving the controversial Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). Cuccinelli is one of only two State Attorneys General in the entire country who have declined the opportunity to support Albert Snyder. Snyder sued WBC after the hate group protested at his son’s funeral. Snyder’s son was killed serving in Iraq.
Snyder won his first case, but the decision was turned back by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, based on the 1st amendment. In addition to the overturned decision, he was ordered to pay the court costs of the Phelps family, the leaders of WBC.
Snyder has gained the support of many politicians, including 42 U.S. Senators and every State Attorney General (including the District of Columbia) except for Maine and Virginia. (Although, both Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb did not sign on to the Senate version of the amicus brief)
So, let’s get this straight; the same guy who is busy assaulting free speech (and free academic inquiry) at the University of Virginia is, suddenly, a committed defender of 1st Amendment free speech rights? Even when it’s inflammatory, vicious, hate speech against the family of a U.S. Marine who died defending our country?
Yes, we need to protect speech. That may even include speech we find to be wildly offensive (e.g., Westboro’s “thank god for dead soldiers” at a Marine’s funeral), as per the 1st Amendment. For instance, take the famous Skokie case, in which the American Nazi Party chose to march in a town with numerous Holocaust survivors. The Supreme Court decided “that the use of the swastika is a symbolic form of free speech entitled to First Amendment protections and determined that the swastika itself did not constitute ‘fighting words.'”
How is that situation different from this case? Perhaps it isn’t, and perhaps Ken Cuccinelli is merely being a principled defender of the 1st Amendment right to free speech. The only problem is, if that’s the case, then why is Cooch – a notorious global warming denier – simultaneously pursuing a witch hunt against free speech against a former UVA climate scientist? Does anyone else see a wild, logical inconsistency here?
P.S. I don’t really buy Cooch’s explanation that Virginia already has a law prohibiting the disruption of a funeral. The issue here is whether such a law is constitutional, and Cooch appears to be arguing that, based on 1st Amendment free speech grounds, it is not.