Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2010

Abstract

The Constitution affords great protection to religiously motivated speech. Religious liberty would mean little if it did not mean the right to profess and practice as well as to believe. But are there limits beyond which religious speech loses its constitutional shield? Would it violate the First Amendment to subject a religious entity to tort liability if its religious profession causes emotional distress? When is religious speech outrageous?

These are vexing questions, to say the least; but the United States Supreme Court will take them up next term—and it will do so in a factual context that has generated as much heat as light. On March 8, 2010, the Court granted certiorari in Snyder v. Phelps. It is a tort case brought by a family grieving the untimely death of their son. It is a free speech case, testing the boundaries of the constitutional commitment to the marketplace of ideas. It is a religious liberty case that has made unlikely allies of those on opposite sides of the political and cultural divides that make our liberal democracy such a challenging enterprise.

Publication Citation

114 Penn. St. L. Rev. Penn Statim 13-18 (2010)