The Tempest Online™

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Hate CAN Come With A Pricetag

Posted by Daniel on November 1, 2007

A federal jury in Baltimore, Maryland, Wednesday awarded $10.9 million to a father of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by members of a fundamentalist church carrying signs blaming soldiers’ deaths on America’s tolerance of homosexuals.

Rev. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church — which has no connections with any mainstream Baptist organizations — are longtime anti-gay protesters.

The family of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder — who was killed in a vehicle accident in Iraq’s Anbar province in 2006 — sued the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, and its leaders for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Church members showed up at Snyder’s funeral chanting derogatory slogans and holding picket signs with messages including “God Hates Fags.”

They’ve picketed the funerals of dozens of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming that God is punishing the United States because of its tolerance for homosexuality.

Al Snyder, father of the slain Marine, said he considered filing the lawsuit for a long time before going forward and that he hoped the judgment would make it harder for the church to continue such protests.

“It’s hard enough burying a 20-year-old son, much less having to deal with something like this,” he said, recalling that some of the other signs at the funeral included “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Thank God for IEDs.”

“As far as their picketing goes, they want to do it in front of a courthouse, they want to do it in a public park, I could care less. But I couldn’t let them get away with doing this to our military,” Al Snyder said. “Every day in court I would just think of Matt and have him on my mind and know that he was watching out for me.”

Snyder’s attorney told jurors to pick an amount “that says don’t do this in Maryland again. Do not bring your circus of hate to Maryland again.”

The award includes $2.9 million in compensatory damages and $8 million in punitive damages, a clerk in the judge’s chambers said.

Lawyers for the church members argued Matthew Snyder’s funeral was public and the First Amendment protects all points of view, even offensive ones.

Church founder Fred Phelps said the church would appeal the decision, adding it would “take about five minutes to reverse that thing.”

“This will elevate me to something important,” Phelps told reporters. “This was an act of futility.”

Later, Phelps said the case was about “putting a preacher on trial for what he preaches.”

“All it was, was a protestation by the government of the United States against the word of God. They don’t want me preaching that God is punishing the country by killing their servicemen.”

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One Response to “Hate CAN Come With A Pricetag”

  1. Robguy said

    I couldn’t be happier. I’m all for people having a right to express their point of view, but it doesn’t extend to anywhere, anyway.

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