Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Speech Outside Synagogue Constitutionally Protected
From today’s decision (which I think is quite correct) in Gerber v. Herskovitz, an opinion by Judge Jeffrey Sutton joined by Judge David McKeague:
Every Saturday morning since September 2003, [Anti-Israel] protesters have picketed the Beth Israel Synagogue [in Ann Arbor]. Their group typically comprises six to twelve people, and they display signs on the grassy sections by the sidewalk in front of the synagogue and across the street from it. The signs carry inflammatory messages, with statements such as “Resist Jewish Power,” “Jewish Power Corrupts,” “Stop Funding Israel,” “End the Palestinian Holocaust,” and “No More Holocaust Movies.” The protests apparently target the members of the Beth Israel Congregation, as they coincide with the arrival of the congregants to their worship service on Saturday morning. The congregants and their children can see the signs as they enter their worship service. But the protesters have never prevented them from entering their house of worship, have never trespassed on synagogue property, and have never disrupted their services….
The court concluded that the plaintiffs had standing to sue over the emotional distress that this speech caused them (the district court had concluded the contrary); but on the merits, the court held against the plaintiffs:
The protesters’ actions come squarely within First Amendment protections of public discourse in public fora. As in Snyder v. Phelps, the content and form of the protests demonstrate that they concern public matters: American-Israeli relations. As in Snyder, the protest location is a quintessential public forum: public sidewalks. The context of being outside a house of worship at the time of a service cuts slightly towards being a private attack, but that factor alone was not heavy enough to tip the
Article from Latest – Reason.com