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The U.S. Supreme Court, saying even hurtful speech is protected by the Constitution, ruled that members of a Kansas church can’t be punished for staging an anti-homosexual demonstration at a military funeral.
The justices, voting 8-1, said a lower court was right to throw out a $5 million award to a man who said the demonstration marred his son’s funeral. The protesters, from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, bore signs that said God was killing U.S. soldiers to punish the country for accepting homosexuality.
The case tested the limits of the First Amendment, forcing the justices to choose between endorsing broad speech rights and protecting private citizens from being targeted by offensive protests. Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said the latter option would mean “punishing the speaker.”