Supreme Court allows Westboro Baptist Church to protest military funerals

WASHINGTON - The father of a Marine killed in Iraq is criticizing a US Supreme Court ruling, which will allow a controversial church to continue protesting at military funerals.

Five years ago Thursday, 20-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in a Humvee accident in Iraq.

At his funeral in Westminster one week later, members of the Westboro Baptist Church held one of their now-familiar protests, loudly proclaiming that Matthew's death was the result of the United States' acceptance of homosexuality.

Snyder sued the church -- and won a $5-million judgment. But that was overturned on appeal. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court released its decision on the case. In an 8-to-1 vote, the Justices upheld that judgment.

At a news conference after the ruling, Al Snyder thanked his family, his attorneys, and the 48 state attorneys general who supported him in his five-year battle against the church. ‘Although it didn't have the outcome that I wanted, I fought the good fight,’ he said. ‘My first thought was, eight justices don't have the common sense God gave a goat.’

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which is based in Kansas, promised more protests. ‘Our overarching reaction is thank God and praise his name,’ said Margie Phelps, a daughter of the church’s founder who is also the attorney who argued the church’s case before the Supreme Court. ‘The rule of law that applies here is you don't get to use your objective standards to call my religion intentional inflection of emotional distress.’

Snyder said the most painful part of the decision is that he'll have to pay court costs to the Westboro Baptist Church, likely in excess of $100-thousand.

Donors have come forward to help, but Snyder knows that money will go to help the church do what it does, at more military funerals. ‘We found out today that we can no longer bury our dead in this country with dignity. What is this country becoming?' he said.

In his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech on public issues. Justice Samuel Alito was the only justice who sided with Al Snyder.

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