Dignity and compassion took a hit Wednesday when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled yet again that no matter how hateful the subject, Americans have a right to talk about it.
Even shout about it.
Even, in effect, dance on dead men's graves about it.
The court brought to final resolution the question of whether free speech trumps the right to privacy even in the most distressing circumstances.
And hard as it is to take in specific cases, as a matter of national principle, it must be regarded as a good thing.
The first fundamental of a free society.
The case was of course about the Westboro Baptist Church, which picketed the funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder.
The church had been ordered by a trial jury to pay Snyder's family $11 million for intentionally inflicting pain on them.
On appeal, the amount was reduced to $5 million and now to zero.
Indeed, Snyder's father, Albert, fears he might be liable for $100,000 of the Hillsboro church's court costs.
The church members picket or otherwise protest at many military funerals, including one here a few years ago, on the idea that God allows U.S. military personnel to be killed because he disapproves of the military's acceptance of homosexuality.
Many news organizations filed briefs with the court, aligning themselves with the First Amendment to the Constitution while holding the church members at arm's length.
The court ruled 8 to 1 in favor of the free speech side of the argument, with only Justice Samuel Alito opposed.
"Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case," Alito said.
Chief Justice John Roberts went to extraordinary lengths to imply the court's sympathy for the military families targeted by the Hillsboro church while upholding the principle of freedom of speech.
And what a pathetic little group it was.
In the church's appearance here, three people stood in a tiny group across the street from TRAC in Pasco, where the service was held.
One was Margie Phelps, daughter of Fred Phelps, a disbarred lawyer, reportedly a perjurer and the strange leader of this sect. She was the winning lawyer before the Supreme Court in the case at issue.
While across the street from the funeral here, she held up a sign reading, "America is doomed."
A child was with the protesters.
The counter-protesters mostly were quiet, but some shouts were hurled across the road.
The little child, whose age still was in single digits, looked more puzzled than embarrassed to us.
We have thought of her often in the several years since, growing up in that environment, having perhaps looked time after time at thousands of angry faces turned in her direction.
She seemed to us to be a victim too.
Altogether, this is a victory for the First Amendment -- even though the Westboro congregation seems a perversion of what religion usually is thought to be.