1. What conflict opposes the two parties?
The Phelpses attended the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder in order to circulate their anti-gay propaganda[GG1] . So, the Snyders sued the Phelpses for what they consider as aggressive behaviour and slander[GG2] .
2. Why do the Phelpses use funerals to stage their anti-gay protests?
They attend military funerals because they see them as good public stages; they receive a good deal of public and media attention since they concern men who died serving their country. As such they represent good channels to convey their anti-gay message.
3. What makes it possible for the Phelps family to stage demonstrations at private funerals?
They scrupulously comply with the law, for instance they picketed Matthew Snyder’s funeral by standing 1,000 feet from the Catholic church in Westminster, Md., where the funeral took place and they rightly assume that their speech, even though distasteful, is protected by the First Amendment[GG3] .
II. Find synonyms for the following words
Hate speech and freedom of speech. Discuss.
The case hinged on two major facts. First, the Phelps’ family speech was considered by the Court as political speech. Indeed, in the way the Phelps target military funerals and other events, they target the state and criticize its policy. Second, Margie Phelps, the Westboro Church’s lawyer, argued that since Mr Snyder, father of the deceased soldier publicly asked « when will this senseless war end ?, » via the media, he made himself a public figure. As a result, the case was no longer about privacy but about freedom of speech. The question is therefore about the scope of freedom of speech[GG4] , where should the limit be drawn?
The Supreme court ruled in favour of the Westoboro Church arguing that however offensive and hateful, their speech is nonetheless protected by the First Amendment because it expresses the group’s political viewpoint. If the Court had ruled against the Church, it would have amounted to preventing them from expressing their views and would have paved the way for other forms of disrespect of the sacrosanct First Amendment, such as punishing the speech of a Socialist of a Republican. The case therefore shows that, in the US, hate speech is also protected by the Constitution. Indeed, the only legitimate reason to restrict and punish hate speech is when speech is liable to provoke imminent violence[GG5] . At least, this is the contemporary interpretation of the First Amendment.
Freedom of speech has not always been absolute in the US, particularly during wartime and the Civil War was a case in point. At the time, any verbal attack against the government and the war was punished. Lincoln famously stated that it was legitimate to supress one part of the Constitution to save the rest of the document: « I will cut off a limb to save a life. » Today, such a stance is no longer acceptable and the Supreme Court, has, for the past decades, ruled in favour of an absolute stance concerning freedom of speech. Harvey A. Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Cambridge, Mass., claims that « Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech than censorship. » He argues, along many, that Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. It seems to me [GG6] that there are other ways of regulating opinion as is clear, once more, in the post 9/11 climate of islamophobia, and making hate speech legal amounts to normalizing hateful stances.
 to attend : assister (attention, le verbe n’est pas suivi d’une préposition, mais directement de son complément).
 to comply with : respecter
 reposer sur
 revenir à
 ouvrir la voie à
 discours haineux
 de plus en plus
[GG1]Eviter de répondre abruptement aux questions de compréhension. Il faut partir du principe que votre réponse doit être claire pour qui n’a pas lu le texte, c’est pourquoi, ici, il est utile de rappeler le contexte de manière concise.
[GG2]Au sein des réponses aux questions de compréhension, il faut reformuler tout ce qui peut l’être, sauf la terminologie pour laquelle reformuler équivaudrait à utiliser une périphrase lourde. Ici, « slander » est un synonyme de « defamation ».
[GG3]Dire que la famille Phelps respecte la loi, ne suffisait pas, il fallait rendre un élément implicitement évident (pour un lecteur américain), explicite dans votre réponse.
[GG4]Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the American constitution, in the Bill of rights.
Under the First Amendment, Congress can “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise, or abridging freedom of speech or of the press or the right to assemble and petition for redress of grievances.”
John Stuart Mill (born May 20, 1806, London, England died May 8, 1873, Avignon, France)
In his work On Liberty (1859) John Stuart Mill argued that individual liberty cannot be legitimately infringed—whether by government, society, or individuals—except in cases where people’s action would cause harm to others.
Mill also argued that legal restrictions on the expression of opinion are never justified. According to him, the “collision of adverse opinions” is a necessary part of any society’s search for the truth.
It is important to emphasize that Mill does not consider that offending someone constitutes « harm »; therefore an action cannot be restricted simply because it violates the conventions or morals of a given society. This idea is important in order to understand freedom of speech in some countries such as the United States, where the same principle applies. Inciting hate via speech is, for instance, not illegal in the U.S. Over time, the Supreme Court has insisted in its various rulings that there is only one justification to consider incitement as a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence. So, in order to be unlawful, words must be meant to, and be likely to, produce violence or lawlessness right away.
[GG6]Il ne faut pas hésiter à prendre position clairement.