Dead Marine's Father Ordered to Pay.......

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/03/30/westboro.baptist.snyder/index.h...



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.

Members of the fundamentalist church based in Topeka, Kansas, appeared 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.

Margie Phelps, the daughter of Fred Phelps and the attorney representing the church in its appeals, also said the money that the church receives from Snyder will be used to finance
demonstrations. But she also said that the order was a consequence of
his decision to sue the church over the demonstration.

"Mr. Snyder and his attorneys have engaged the legal system; there are some rules to that legal engagement," said Phelps, a member of Westboro who
says she has participated in more than 150 protests of military
funerals.

"They wanted to shut down the picketing so now they're going to finance it," she said.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ordered that Snyder pay more than $16,000 in costs requested by Westboro for copies of motions, briefs and appendices, according to
court documents.

In a motion filed in October, Snyder's lawyer, who is representing him for free, asked the court to dismiss the bill of costs, or, alternatively, reduce the 50-cent fee per page or charge
Snyder only for copies that were necessary to make their arguments on
appeal.

"We objected based upon ability to pay and the fairness of the situation," Sean Summers said.

The mostly pro-forma ruling is the latest chapter in an ongoing legal saga that pits privacy rights of grieving families against the free speech rights of demonstrators,
however disturbing and provocative their message.

Snyder's family sued the church and went to trial in 2007 alleging privacy invasion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. A
jury awarded the family $2.9 million in compensatory damages plus $8
million in punitive damages, which were reduced to $5 million.

Westboro in 2008 appealed the case to the 4th District, which reversed the judgments a year later, siding with the church's claims that its First
Amendment rights had been violated.

"The protest was confined to a public area under supervision and regulation of local law enforcement and did not disrupt the church service," the circuit court opinion said.
"Although reasonable people may disagree about the appropriateness of
the Phelps' protest, this conduct simply does not satisfy the heavy
burden required for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional
distress under Maryland law."

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case to address issues of laws designed to protect the "sanctity and dignity of memorial and funeral services" as well as the
privacy of family and friends of the deceased.

The justices will be asked to address how far states and private entities such as cemeteries and churches can go to justify picket-free zones and the use
of "floating buffers" to silence or restrict speech or movements of
demonstrators exercising their constitutional rights in a funeral
setting.

Both Phelps and Snyder's attorney said they were surprised that the 4th District chose to weigh in on the issue of legal costs when they could have waited until after the Supreme Court hearing.

Phelps believes the ruling bodes well for her side.

"It is a good harbinger of the fact that the Supreme Court will remind this nation that you don't have mob rule. The fact that so many people hate
these words does not mean you can silence or penalize them. That's
supposed to be the great liberty that we congratulate ourselves on
protecting in this nation. We strut all around the world forcing people
to give all the liberties we supposedly have," she said.

Phelps anticipated that a Supreme Court ruling in the church's favor would be unpopular, but she said Westboro's members viewed the potential outcome
in Biblical terms.

"When the Supreme Court unanimously upholds the 4th Circuit, it's going to put this country in a rage, and we will be expelled," she said. "But whenever it was time for an epic event in
the Bible, the thing that happened right before is the prophets were
removed from the land, and that's what's going to happen to us. ...
We're going to sprint to the end of this race."

Snyder claims he is unable to pay any legal costs in the case and is attempting to raise funds on his son's site, http://www.matthewsnyder.org/. He is equally optimistic
that he will prevail before the Supreme Court.

"The American people keep my spirits lifted a lot and give me hope. I think
most of the country is on my side on this issue," he said. "Too many
people have died to protect our rights and freedoms to have them
degraded and spit upon like this church does."

Tags: Westboro, court, free, speech

Views: 28

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Replies to This Discussion

If he actually does it, I might gain a droplet of respect for Bill.
Agreed. As much as it will make me seethe inside, I will have to cultivate the tiniest shred of approval for him.
I hate to say it because there is no group in America whose message I loathe and disagree with more than the Westboro loons, but they do have free speech rights. I'm not keen on the particulars of this civil suit and exactly what damages Snyder was claiming, so it's tough to make a judgement on the, uh, judgement.
Sure, their ideas and free speech are protected, but was the harassment of those mourners in any way intrinsic to that speech? They could express those same ideas without being assholes. Free speech is a right worth defending. Being an asshole? Not really.

I'm sure that the Westboro Baptist Church is careful to toe the line where the law is concerned, so to be clear, I'm not saying that their acts are or should be considered illegal -- that being an asshole should be illegal. I simply don't see it as a free speech issue.
I agree with the sentiment, it is just hard to see it practically applied. For some people, gay people being gay is just as bad. If a majority think that way, then is it right to suppress gay pride parades?

I hate having to defend these morons and I agree that there is a degree of harrassment in their funeral protests, but again, I just don't see anyway around it. Free speech, unfortunately at times, protects even assholes on the fringe. We must accept the bad to enjoy the good that comes with it.

The way I see it, and I realize this is not from the perspective of a family member that is in mourning, if these evil people are protesting the funeral, it must mean a good person is being buried.
For some people, gay people being gay is just as bad. If a majority think that way, then is it right to suppress gay pride parades?

No, not unless the parade itself, without any regard to the message behind it, presents an issue.

My stance is that actions and speech are not always intrinsically linked. In fact, they frequently aren't. You can express gay pride through a parade, and that parade is, to a limited extent, part of the message. The parade is not a message in and of itself though. Denying the parade does not deny anyone the ability to promote gay pride.

Expressing gay pride is free speech. Having a parade is not free speech. If you ban the gay pride parade on the sole basis of disagreeing with the gay pride message, that would be suppression of free speech. If you suppress the parade itself with no regard to the message behind it, perhaps for lacking permits or clearance, or safety violations, or hurricanes, that is not the suppression of free speech; that's just the suppression of a parade.

I don't care about what's written on the WBC's picket signs. It could have said 'Mr. T Hates Avocados' and I would still find their actions objectionable. It's not the message; it's entirely the behavior. If they had chosen to spray paint their message on the tombstone instead, free speech wouldn't even come up. That's vandalism. It wouldn't matter what the message was; the vandalism itself wouldn't be protected, would it?

Again, I'm not suggesting that the WBC's actions were unlawful here, just that I can easily attack their actions without even addressing their message or right to free speech. Anything tot he contrary becomes completely impractical. I could turn almost anything into a free speech issue that way.

To me, free speech is the right to express any idea, but that doesn't mean through any means possible. I don't have an issue with restrictions placed on media provided that those restrictions are placed completely irrespective of any specific messages communicated through said media.
Well, sure, yelling fire in a crowded theater is not free speech, to use a more extreme example of what you are saying.

But what I was pointing out is that being an asshole is ill defined. From what I know, these assholes follow the rules and obey the laws. So even though they are assholes, that doesn't mean we can silence them.

Now, if they are interrupting the funeral or causing mayhem, that is different. But from all recent accounts I have seen, many funeral goers hardly notice them due to the buffer zone and groups that arrive to block them out. The media attention they attract probably causes more distress to mourners than anything. But, I am speculating on that a bit.
The civil suit doesn't seem like it made an attempt to silence them or to stop their message.

"Snyder's family sued the church and went to trial in 2007 alleging privacy invasion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy."

It's a civil suit seeking reparations for damages. Damages can occur as the result of non-criminal activity, so it's not necessarily relevant that the church broke no laws. These damages occurred as a result of the Church's actions and behavior as opposed to their actual message itself. It is not the speech itself that is contested here, but actions surrounding and supporting it. Tacking speech onto those actions is ham-fisted 'free speech'.

Now, I don't agree with the outcome of the original trial. $5 million in compensation and punitive damages? That seems absurd to me. I just don't agree that freedom of speech is a defense here. Not in any way
These damages occurred as a result of the Church's actions and behavior as opposed to their actual message itself. It is not the speech itself that is contested here, but actions surrounding and supporting it. Tacking speech onto those actions ham-fisted 'free speech'.

Sure, and I am fine with that. As I stated above... "I'm not keen on the particulars of this civil suit and exactly what damages Snyder was claiming, so it's tough to make a judgement on the, uh, judgement".

Being married to a lawyer, I have learned to use qualifiers and hedge my bets! ;-)
Yes, without knowing the specifics of the suit and this whole affair, it's hard to make any overly assertive claims. I can only speak of principles here. I stand by my espoused principle, naturally, but I doubt that the US Supreme Court would, so by legal definitions, I'm probably wrong. Then again, is the law really the best place to look in search of what's right? It's depressing no matter how you slice though.

Now in Canada, the Westboro Baptist Church members can't seem to clear the border. Even our somewhat homophobic Conservatives can't stand them.
Well, the law is an interesting place and I would say that much like science, it is ever evolving and building upon itself. It doesn't always get it right, either. But we are picking nits, most likely.

Even our somewhat homophobic Conservatives can't stand them.

And here is where I think the WBC is valuable. Even U.S. fundies won't claim them. Yet, they are an uncomfortable spotlight on these peoples' religion. While most pick and choose, the Phelps gang adheres to their holy text like no other.

If the world were full of wishy washy theists, religion would not be critically examined by many.
They can't stand them here either..

http://www.sbcbaptistpress.org/BPnews.asp?ID=32652

What really sticks in their craw is that they use the same scriptures to support their causes... and for similar reasons... 'like to oppose same sex marriages'. Yet they don't want to be associated with WBC...cause they are picketing heterosexual soldiers funerals.

I wonder if they would be as publically distancing if WBC only protested funerals of homosexuals?

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