Westboro Baptist Church and their cretin of a minister, Fred Phelps are being sued by the father of a marine who died in Iraq after they picketed his son's funeral.

Some nights Albert Snyder wakes up at 3 a.m. Other nights he doesn't sleep at all, tormented by thoughts of the hateful signs carried by a fundamentalist church outside his Marine son's funeral.

"Thank God for Dead Soldiers."

"You're Going to Hell."

and "Semper Fi Fags."

Now, more than four years after his son died in a Humvee accident in Iraq, Snyder's legal battle is headed to the Supreme Court. And his tireless efforts have drawn support from across the country, including a wave of donations after he was ordered to pay the church's court costs — a $16,500 judgment that the congregation plans to use for more protests.

Donations have come from people of all political and religious persuasion including Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly who pledged to pay the entire $16,510. I have to give Bill O' an atta boy on this one.

While I am pretty sure the SCOTUS will uphold the church's right to free speech – more the pity, I admire Mr. Snyder's courage and tenacity for taking on that slime of a church and their pastor of hate.

Anyone interested in helping Mr. Snyder's cause they can donate here.


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I hate what the guy says, but I defend his right to say it legally. Its a slippery slope when we try to have the government step in and stop someone from talking and waving signs. Ridicule him, counter protest him, and heap scorn on him, but making his talk illegal could as easily be applied to "atheist hate speech against religion". He's just talking and waving signs when it comes down to it, and not specifically slandering anyone or doing anything illegal. If he does cross the line legally, sure throw the book at him, but until then freedom of speech is too precious to risk losing, cause the sword cuts both ways. Lots of christians lose sleep from hearing slogans like "god is imaginary" and "there's probably no god" on buses.
That's pretty much what Jeff Wagg at the James Randi foundation has to say:

Blinding Lady Justice
Written by Jeff Wagg
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 16:21
I've written about the Westboro Baptist Church before, though I didn't mention their name. I'd rather not in this case either, but I have to as they're prominently featured in the news today, including this article from the New York Daily News.

Albert Snyder's son was a U.S. marine killed in the line of duty while serving in Iraq. At his funeral, the Westboro Baptist Church appeared waving signs thanking God for "dead marines," among other well-known hate speech. Albert Snyder sued for emotional distress, and initially won a multi-million dollar award from a jury in a Maryland court. The church appealed, and won, nullifying the award to Snyder. The kicker: the court granted the church's request for reimbursement of legal costs, and Albert Snyder now owes them about $16,000.

In short, a man's son dies for his country, a hate group protests at the funeral (claiming that the son is now in Hell, among other things), and now Albert Snyder has to pay them $16,000. It hardly seems fair.

I first learned about this from skeptics via an Internet chat room, and the reaction was along the lines of "Damn, that sucks. I hate those guys." An Internet poll had 92% of participants claiming that the court made a mistake in this case.

And while I certainly agree that the church's actions and very existence are an affront to humanity, I'm glad they were granted their legal costs by the court.

Yep, that's right... I'm supporting the court. They did the right thing.

It's simple: a suit was filed, and the appeals court ruled that the church's first amendment rights protected them from the suit, so they deserve to have their court costs reimbursed by the plaintiffs. The system worked, as it should. Say what you want about the church, but they know what they're doing. They know the law, and they follow it, and despite my personal feelings, I'm glad the courts realized this. Judge Robert B. King wrote:

As utterly distasteful as these signs are they involve matters of public concern, including the issues 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.

The three judge panel split the vote 2:1.

I only wish the that the courts had been as fair to the JREF. We have been sued many times over the years, never successfully, but we've had to pay court costs each time. Though we've asked to be compensated for our legal costs in the face of some obviously fraudulent suits (we were sued by "God," for example), we've never received a cent. The situation as it is right now is that anyone willing to pony up enough money can sue a non-profit group such as the JREF, and force them to pay legal costs... even if they don't have a legal leg to stand on. This is a state issue, and though the circumstances are different from Snyder's, the JREF is being penalized for using its right to free speech by what appears to me to be an oversight in the legal statutes.

So what do we do when groups we loathe are protected by the same rights we want to be protected by? We celebrate it. There is a reason Lady Justice is wearing a blindfold. If your battle is with Westboro, do your fighting in other ways than by wishing the courts would be prejudicial towards them. Protest yourself, or write articles, or... my favorite solution: ignore them completely. Whatever you choose, hopefully you'll follow the law and receive the same protections they did.

All that said, my heart goes out to Albert Snyder and his family. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, and if they overturn the decision of the Court of Appeals, Snyder won't have to pay. But just in case, a fund has been started to help make the payment should that be the final outcome. If you're interested, you can donate at matthewsnyder.org.

Freedom of speech is an essential tool for skeptics, and the only way we can have it is if it's universal. We shouldn't want it any other way.
As much as the Westboro church pisses me off, I have to agree. Freedom of speech protects us all even the most disgusting. My only hope is that Albert Snyder receives enough in donations so he is not further burdened. I've sent $25 - not much but every bit helps, I hope this is something A/N members can support.
I've met non-Muslims Europeans who think that people who make fun of Islam should be thrown in jail.

I've always lived in Europe and I've yet to meet one.

Do we really want to go into that direction?

Last time I checked, no European country threw people in prison for making fun of Islam, so what the hell are you talking about? Unless it is depriving these non-Muslims Europeans from their right to free speech, I have no idea. There are many people in the US who would like throwing people in jail for making fun of Christianity, too, and I can't see a real difference.
Perhaps a simple compromising law could be instituted where it is illegal to picket a funeral within a thousand feet or something. This would not limit their free speech but would keep them just enough distance away to be more easily ignored by the grieving.
right but then people would stretch the definition of "funeral". You can legislate certain things but you cant make being a "jerk" illegal, that has to be handled by using ridicule, counter protest, writing opposing books, blogging etc.
Everyone has skeletons in their closets...I'm sure if someone went digging in the WBC's closet they could find something to take them down. But, as much as I hate to agree with everyone...the first amendment is essential.
How about making it legal to beat the hell out of picketers? Honestly, I don't think picketing should even be legal. It's pointless and dumb. It should fall in the area of harassment. Is that legal?
What a bunch of assholes. I think we should picket them! Daily for the rest of their existence. Picket the pastor's house. Picket until the church congregation is too afraid to even go to church.
Well, they don't do it for their personal beliefs. It's a scam. They intentionally piss people off, and wait for someone to act in contrary to free speech.

Then they get their pay day.

They really do feel that they're invulnerable.
Unfortunately for them, it won't take long before they piss off a mentally ill person.
No amount of law suits can replace dead family members.
And that's exactly what it's going to boil down to.

It's just a matter of time before they piss off the wrong person.
But, this is the life they chose, the life of a con artist.

Hope they think it's worth it, after losing a few friends, family, and children.
Rational people don't put their children in the cross-hairs of an entire nation.

Fell sorry for their kids man.
Imagine being bred into being a pawn for a legal scam.
An ironical historic note - without the backing of their contemporary evangelists - Jefferson and Monroe would never have passed the First Amendment. There was an abiding fear that allowing the government to control speech or establish a religion might not fall out in favor of the 'right' speech and the 'right' religion. In the end, that is the beauty of the amendment that absolutely deserves to be the first.




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