Today, the Supreme Court is hearing a case brought by Albert Snyder, a father whose Marine Corps son Matthew was killed in Iraq and whose funeral was protested by fundamentalist pastor Fred Phelps and his anti-gay followers.
Albert is suing Fred for damages and will bring to light just how far freedom of speech goes. When the case was previously tried, Albert won $5 million in a jury verdict, but the case was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Fred’s group does this sort of thing a lot. They look out for military funerals in the press, find a location nearby, and bring out their signs that say such hateful things as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Fag Troops” and “Pope in Hell.” For the record, Matthew was not gay.
Not like it matters to Fred. He used Matthew’s funeral to launch his “God Hates Fags” campaign and harassed his family in a video stating “Albert Snyder and his ex-wife had taught Matthew to defy his creator and raised him for the devil.”
“As utterly distasteful as these signs are,” the 4th Circuit said, “they involve matters of public concern, including the issue of homosexuals in the military, the sex-abuse scandal within the Catholic Church and the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens.”
Albert merely wanted what everyone wants, the ability to bury a loved one in a private, dignified manner.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars are backing the Snyders and “stress the need to protect the privacy of grieving military families.” The ACLU, on the other hand, says, “Phelps’ horrific message is exactly the kind of unpopular, offensive speech the First Amendment was intended to protect.”
What do you think?