Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Amazing 1st Amendment Case

CNN reports on the case of a dead Marine's father who is ordered to pay the legal fees of the folks who protested at the funeral of his son.

The father of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church says an order to pay the protesters' legal costs in a civil claim is nothing less than a "slap in the face."

"By the court making this decision, they're not only telling me that they're taking their side, but I have to pay them money to do this to more soldiers and their families," said Albert Snyder, whose son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in action in Iraq in 2006.

This particular group of Baptists is a fundamentalist church based in Topeka, Kansas. They demonstrated outside Snyder's funeral in 2006 in Westminster, Maryland, carrying signs reading "You're going to hell," "God hates you" and "Thank God for dead soldiers."

Among the teachings of the church, which was founded in 1955 by pastor Fred Phelps, is the belief that God is punishing the United States for "the sin of homosexuality" through events such as soldiers' deaths.

The Snyder family sued the church for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. Initially they won a big settlement but when the conviction was overturned in the appeals court the Snyder's were ordered to pay their opponents' legal fees.

The appeals court determined that although the protesting was in poor taste, it was protected by the 1st Amendment.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.


  1. Mike,

    Dave pretty much summed up how I feel about it.

  2. Well, let me quibble here and say Phelps and his crew are not a church or even Southern Baptists. They are a cult, plain and simple. Most of the members of this "church" are actually members of Fred Phelps' extended family.

  3. Thanks for the link Earl. I agree Dave said it all.

    SoBe, You're right, these are some genuine extremists, but do you think they're right to stand on the 1st A.?

  4. they are perfectly right to stand on the first amendment. a follow up to the story is that Bill O'Riely from Fox News is paying the court fees for the father.
    A political act to gain favor with the anti-gay and pro war Fox viewers.
    As a self respecting political scientist, I can't bring myself to calling Fox a news outlet.

  5. Yeah, I saw that about O'Reilly. Does that mean that he disagrees with the court ruling? It's fascinating when conservative people feel compelled to infringe upon rights as sacred as the one about free speech.