According to CNN, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond Virginia has ordered Albert Snyder, the father of Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder, a marine killed in Iraq, to pay the legal fees of the people who protested at his son’s funeral. The protesters in this case were members of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church.
Phelps’ church is known primarily for its repeated anti-gay protests. Phelps’ motto is “God hates Fags.” He blames everything from 9/11 to soldiers’ deaths from IEDs on homosexuality in America. Phelps’ church protested at the marine’s funeral. The marine’s father sued the church alleging privacy invasion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil
conspiracy and won an initial judgment of over $10,000,000. The Fourth Circuit overturned the award and ordered the father to pay Westboro’s legal fees for $16,000. Ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide the case.
First, I have to preface my further remarks by saying that I am the father of two active duty US servicemen. One is currently serving in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne and the other is in a job that may also place him in harms way. So it is possible that I could someday be that father. Second, I must also say that as a Christian, a military father and an American, I find the actions of Phelps and his so-called church reprehensible.
But as an American, a patriot and a believer in the First Amendment I believe the court made the right ruling. I also hope that the United States Supreme Court upholds the Fourth Circuit.
The First Amendment reads:
As much as I hate the way Phelps and his church have perverted the gospel of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as much as I hate the way they have attacked the Snyder family in their time of grief, as much as I hate the way they have dis-honored the memory of a young American hero — I believe that their actions are protected under the First Amendment.
In its opinion, the court said:
Among the five freedoms of the First Amendment, is the freedom of speech. It is precisely this sort of speech, controversial, offensive, and uncomfortable speech that requires protection. My sons are fighting, and Lance Corporal Snyder died to protect our freedoms — including Phelps’ freedom to spew his vitriol.
As much as I think this lawsuit is ill-advised, I understand that the Snyder family has incurred and will continue to incur significant legal expenses, If the judgment stands they will also have to pay the $16,000 in Phelps’ legal fees. Therefore, I encourage my readers to join me in donating to the Al Snyder Fund to assist with legal fees.
I believe in the First Amendment, but I also believe in supporting the families of our fallen heroes. Semper fi!