It is my opinion that The Baltimore Sun's parent company and other media organizations were mistaken in filing their friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Rev. Fred Phelps and his church ("No place for grief?" Oct. 12). The Supreme Court is facing a matter of Constitutional principle that has received very little print, airtime or respect in recent years. As a schoolboy, I learned that no right is absolute when its full exercise abrogates the same or a corollary right of another individual. If the Supreme Court finds in favor of Mr. Phelps' church, then our right to mourn our dead in peace is denied, and the sense of human decency (not the Constitution) upon which this right is predicated, will be legally repealed.
If the court finds for the plaintiff in the case, who is the father of a deceased Marine, Mr. Phelps and company will not have been denied their right to free speech, as the pundits suggest. Instead, such a ruling would place a limitation on the First Amendment right of free speech, effectively curtailing an otherwise unlimited license for all speech, at the threshold of another person's right to mourn his dead unmolested.
As far as I am concerned, Mr. Phelps and his followers have indeed shouted "Fire!" in a crowded theater. I sincerely hope the court concurs, but I understand its limits: the court can rule on constitutionality but, to our sorrow, not on decency.
Thad Paulhamus, Baltimore