Who gets to regulate the sale of violent video games? And what’s the balance between the right to privacy and freedom of speech? Those are two issues to be addressed by the Supreme Court, which began its fall term this week. Here’s a look at two of the more controversial cases the court will hear.
Snyder, Albert v. Phelps, Fred W., et al.
This suit was filed by Albert Snyder, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq against the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Members of the church protested at the funeral of Snyder’s son, Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder. Some signs at the protest carried the message “God Hates Fags,” but the church, led by Pastor Fred W. Phelps, claims they were not directed at the Marine. Snyder claimed that the protesters caused him emotional distress, and he was awarded $11 million jury verdict, which an appeals court later threw out on First Amendment grounds. This case concerns the issue of freedom of speech and First Amendment rights for a group to protest at a private funeral.
Due to the sensitive issue of First Amendment rights, 22 news organizations filed a brief in support of the Westboro Baptist Church’s right to protest at private funerals. Supporters included the Associated Press, the New York Times Co., NPR and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Supporters for Snyder include the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), who seek to protect the rights of veterans and believe that the Westboro Baptist Church violated Snyder and his family’s right to privacy.
Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association
This is another high profile First Amendment case, which will decide if states have the right to restrict the sale of violent video games to minors. The court has not set up principles for the regulation of violent material like it has for sexual material, leaving violent materials like video games in a grey area. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown argued that violent video games are similar to sexual materials, which the government can protect children from. The lower court and appeals court, which ruled on the case before the Supreme Court agreed to hear it, both ruled that states did not have the right to regulate the distribution of violent video games to minors under the First Amendment.
Supporters for regulation of the sale of violent video games to children includes the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund (EFELDF), a non-profit organization that describes itself as “pro-family.” The organization argued in a brief supporting the restrictions, that violent video games leads to violent and aggressive behavior.
This case has garnered a wide range of supporters for the First Amendment rights of video game distributors including the Motion Picture Association of America and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
ON THE WEB
- Supreme Court Term Offers Hot Issues and Future Hints
- Violent Video Game Law Gets Supreme Court Hearing
- Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) blog
News-2-Know is a blog created by B.J. Roche’s Journalism 301 class. Every weekday, an author will write about a topic that is newsworthy and provide links on additional resources. To read the rest of the entries, click here.