Jess Bravin reviews the upcoming docket of the U.S. Supreme Court, starting with a case relating to the Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for its “God Hates” placards, for the Wall Street Journal:
Free speech stands front and center in the Supreme Court term beginning next week, in a pair of cases testing the First Amendment’s reach in the digital age.
On Oct. 6, the justices will weigh whether the First Amendment protects a Kansas church’s campaign to publicize its beliefs by picketing military funerals with vulgar placards and insulting fallen soldiers’ survivors in online screeds.
The father of a fallen Marine is seeking damages for emotional distress from the church, which believes that God is killing American soldiers to punish the U.S. for its tolerance of homosexuality.
A month later , the court is to consider whether states can bar minors from buying violent videogames, on the theory that these games cause damage to developing minds and this outweighs young people’s constitutional rights.
Both cases add digital twists to constitutional doctrine. The church’s Internet posting potentially exposes the entire world to its hurtful attack, while the videogame laws single out computer role-playing as uniquely dangerous to children while leaving violent music, films, comic books and other media unrestricted.
The Roberts Court’s record on free-speech cases makes it hard to predict the outcome. It voted 8-1 earlier this year to strike down a federal law that banned depictions of animal cruelty, finding the ban too broad. At the same time, it curtailed First Amendment rights for minors in 2007, ruling that school officials could suppress a student placard that referred to marijuana.
The court has put about 40 cases on its docket for the new term, which runs through June, and is expected to add a similar number in coming months…
[continues in the Wall Street Journal]