Albert Snyder of York, Pa. lost his son Matthew, a Marine lance corporal, in Iraq on March 3, 2006. Matthew was 20. Matthew’s funeral was held seven days later at St. John’s Catholic Church in Westminster, Md., where he grew up.
A Kansas-based religious cult called the Westboro Baptist Church, most of whose 60 or so members are related to founder Fred Phelps by either blood or marriage, hates America because it perceives it as being overly tolerant of homosexuals. It has taken to picketing the funerals of military personnel with signs saying things such as “You’re going to hell,” “God hates you,” “Semper fi fags,” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”
One of the funerals they picketed was Matthew’s. They then posted video of what they did on their web site.
Snyder sued Phelps, the church and other church leaders that June in U.S. District Court alleging state law tort claims of defamation, intrusion upon seclusion, publicity given to private life, civil conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Judge Richard Bennett, a Bush 43 appointee, threw out the claims of defamation and publicity given to private life but held the others for trial.
During the trial Snyder testified “I think about the sign (Thank God for dead soldiers) every day of my life. . . . I see that sign when I lay in bed at nights. I (had) one chance to bury my son and they took the dignity away from it. I cannot re-bury my son. And for the rest of my life, I will remember what they did to me and it has tarnished the memory of my son’s last hour on earth.”
“Somebody could have stabbed me in the arm or in the back and the wound would have healed,” he said. “But I don’t think this will heal.”
He appeared visibly shaken and was often reduced to tears.
On Oct. 31, 2007, the jury ruled for Snyder awarding him $2.9 million in compensatory damages and $8 million in punitive damages.
Well, Phelps crew appealed and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit after deciding that the First Amendment gave one the right to intrude on funerals and mock the grieving, on Friday, it not just merely overturned the jury verdict but ordered Snyder to pay $16,500 in legal fees to Phelps.
The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
In case, you happen to think Westboro Baptist Church is some kind of conservative organization, well, Phelps and his mob are Democrats.
In fact, Phelps Jr. hosted Al Gore at his home for a fundraiser and was a Gore delegate to the 1988 Democratic National Convention.