Well, that’s just great. The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled that the First Amendment protected the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church when it protested at the funeral of Marine killed in Iraq.
The court ruled 8-1 that the dead soldier’s father could not sue the WBC celebrating his son’s death with crude funeral picket signs.
“As a nation we have chosen…to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts. “That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case.”
Fred Phelps and his radical hate group believe that any misfortune that befalls American soldiers is retribution for the country not adhering to WBC doctrine, which condemns gays, Catholics, and Jews, among others.
In March 2006, Phelps and his relatives picketed at the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq, at a church in Westminster, Maryland.
The group carried signs that read “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates You”, along with others, and complied with local ordinances during its protest.
It wasn’t until Snyder’s father, Albert Snyder, saw TV coverage of the protest that he learned of it. He later saw a post on the church’s official website attacking him for bringing his son up to be a Catholic.
Snyder sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress and had previously been awarded $11 millions in damages, which was later reduced to $5 million.
A federal appeals court overturned that ruling on First Amendment grounds, however, saying the Constitution protected WBC’s speech.
- Countering The Westboro Baptist Protests Of The Six Slain In Arizona (lezgetreal.com)
- Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Westboro Protest at Marine’s Funeral (politicsdaily.com)