The Fred Phelps clan's passion for torment is a pox on America.
Tragically, it's a sickness that those blessed to be living under the First Amendment must live with.
Such is the bitter curse of a civil society. To not only tolerate raw incivility, but to wrap a woolen blanket of protection around it.
Nothing so right ever felt so loathsome.
The Topeka, Kan., preacher and his bounteous family, which forms the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, have made a living in recent decades protesting in the vilest ways outside of institutions, cultural events and, most repugnant, military and civilian funerals.
Their bright signs hold the darkest of messages: In gleeful terms, they actually celebrate the deaths of others and presumptuously confer them to eternal damnation -- including, amazingly, even the good men and women who have given their lives in service to America.
This venomous, contemptible cabal has single-handedly moved the needle on revulsion.
Yet, detestable as they are, they could not move the U.S. Supreme Court off the First Amendment.
It has all the appeal of a punch to the gut. Moreover, 48 of the 50 attorneys general, and likely a vast majority of Americans, disagree with it utterly. But in truth, the high court's 8-1 ruling Wednesday that the Phelpses' protests are protected speech is actually a victory for us all. It means that, because even the Phelpses' toxic beliefs are safeguarded, so, certainly, are our own.
Most of our hearts, to be sure, are with Justice Samuel Alito and his impassioned dissent. But our minds must be with the other eight justices -- an overwhelming majority that masks the difficulty of the decision but speaks to its inevitability.
It is legendary for Americans to say they would oppose the foulest of speech but would defend to the death another's right to utter it. Perhaps never before has that claim been put to so heartbreaking a challenge.
But if the court erred, it did so on the side of freedom.
That the sanctity of free speech is a principle that cuts across all ideological lines is made clear in the high court's near-unanimity. Good and loving liberals and conservatives and all those between stand wounded and bloodied by this war of words. But we stand together -- as the Earth's freest people. Nothing -- not even our own ears and consciences -- can be allowed to change that.
Patriotic citizens have taken to staging their own rallies in the past few years, to counter the Phelpses' bile and to form a buffer between them and the mourners they target at funerals. Good for them. God bless them.
Meanwhile, it provides some comfort to know that the U.S. Supreme Court is guarding the First Amendment too.