February 25, 2008

Supreme Court upholds right to satire

In an 8-0 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the First Amendment right to satire.

February 24, 1988 the Court overturned the $200,000 settlement awarded to the Reverend Jerry Falwell for his emotional distress at being parodied in Hustler, a pornographic magazine

In 1983, Hustler ran a piece parodying Falwell's first sexual experience as a drunken, incestuous, childhood encounter with his mother in an outhouse. Falwell, an important religious conservative and founder of the Moral Majority political advocacy group, sued Hustler and its publisher, Larry Flynt, for libel. Falwell won the case, but Flynt appealed, leading to the Supreme Court's hearing the case because of its constitutional implications.

In its decision, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court's decision, ruling that, although in poor taste, Hustler's parody fell within the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech and the press.

(Thanks to the History Channel for this reminder.)

Click here to read a summary of the case and hear the arguments or decision from Oyez.org

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