Palin tries to walk back First Amendment tweet

She claims a remark on the Westboro Baptist Church case was misinterpreted

By Justin Elliott
March 4, 2011 6:43PM (UTC)
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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin smiles as she is introduced during a public appearance at a Long Island Association (LIA) meeting and luncheon in Woodbury, N.Y. Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) (AP)

Sarah Palin is now claiming that a tweet she sent out about First Amendment rights was misinterpreted to mean that she opposed the Supreme Court's 8-1 ruling in the Westboro Baptist Church case this week.

Salon and many other outlets wrote about what appeared to be Palin's clear opposition to that ruling, which held that protesters from the fringe church could hold demonstrations outside soldiers' funerals. It seemed to be pretty clear-cut:


Common sense & decency absent as wacko "church" allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers' funerals but we can't invoke God's name in public square

But now Palin tells the Daily Caller's Chris Moody:

“Obviously my comment meant that when we’re told we can’t say ‘God bless you’ in graduation speeches or pray before a local football game but these wackos can invoke God’s name in their hate speech while picketing our military funerals, it shows ridiculous inconsistency,” Palin told TheDC. “I wasn’t calling for any limit on free speech, and it’s a shame some folks tried to twist my comment in that way. I was simply pointing out the irony of an often selective interpretation of free speech rights.”

First of all, the issue of prayer at school football games centers on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, so it's really separate from freedom of speech questions.

But let's look again at the tweet (emphasis ours):


"Common sense & decency absent as wacko "church" allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers' funerals but we can't invoke God's name in public square"

The use of the word "decency" in particular suggests that Palin was criticizing the Westboro decision. The invocation of God's name in the public square might have to do with common sense, but what it is not is an issue of decency. When she says that decency was absent, that can really only be read as criticism of the Westboro ruling. So I'd consider her new statement a walkback.

Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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