Home Virginia Politics Cooch Assaults Free Speech at UVA, Leaps to Westboro Baptist Church’s Defense?

Cooch Assaults Free Speech at UVA, Leaps to Westboro Baptist Church’s Defense?


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.

  • Cooch is giving them a free pass.  It’s because they protested at Obama’s daughters’ (or, as they call them, the “satanic spawn” of a “murderous bastard”) school.  http://tpmlivewire.talkingpoin

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    Gee, who would have thought that Cooch would join forces with the ACLU to defend the right of loudmouthed, hate-filled bigots to disrupt the funerals of those who have given the last full measure of service to the nation. And…just a day or so after the nation paused – however briefly – to honor the fallen.

    Even I can create the ad for 2013 built around this one.

  • Glen Tomkins

    You’re absolutely right, it’s not as if Cuccinelli has chosen to support the freedom of speech side of this controversy over Fred Phelps’ hateful, bigoted, church, because he’s some fan of free speech.  His persecution of that UVA professor for espousing the “wrong” science makes him a fairly extreme opponent of free speech, someone who believes it a positive good for the government to suppress speech it considers wrong.

    But, as much as he hates free speech, he hates going against hateful, right-wing extremist churches even more.  Phelps is his soul-mate, a fellow enthusiast for theocracy in America.  For Cuccinelli, supporting Phelps is worth even holding your nose and putting up with supporting free speech, just this once.  Free speech is the lesser of two evils.  Being against the rule of the godly here in America is much, much worse.

    After Cuccinelli and Phelps and their ilk are firmly in charge at all levels of government, then the members of this theocracy won’t face these painful dilemmas.  The government will be back to persecuting gays, so Phelps will be able to go back to the knee-jerk support of all wars waged in the name of the Prince of Peace.  The government will stop disagreeing, in any way, with Phelps, so it will stop trying to control his hate speech, and be able to get back to persecuting people who espouse any sorts of views, scientific or otherwise, that the theocracy finds inconvenient.  This will leave Cuccinelli free to go back to a consistent opposition to all free speech.

  • Teddy Goodson

    and supporters, is probably that, in going after UVA, he pretends that it is mis-use of taxpayer money that offends him—- you know, the other mighty God of the righties, Mammon; that scientists used taxpayer’s grant money to do research and reach conclusions other than what Cuccinelli thought that the grant was supposed to produce. The case of WBC is, in their eyes, permissable exercise of First Amendment Rights; no taxpayer money directly involved. Case closed. (Snark).

  • pvogel

    allow free speech at westboro, and decry flag burning?

  • kindler

    The way to destroy the Republican party is to put its constituencies at each other’s throats.  So go ahead, Cooch, and trample on the feelings of people whose relatives have given their lives for their country — in order to support the most radical agendas and tactics of the Religious Right.

    Let’s see, how many service members and veterans are there in the state of Virginia?  Go ahead and spit in their face, Cooch, and we’ll see where it gets you.