The church that hates dead soldiers

By David Waters The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the family of a slain Marine to pay … Continued

By David Waters

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the family of a slain Marine to pay $16,510.80 in court costs to a congregation that organized an anti-gay protest during the Marine’s funeral. The congregation, which claims God is using soldiers’ deaths to punish America for “the sin of homosexuality,” plans to use some of that money to fund more demonstrations at soldiers’ funerals.

Seems like the only people being punished here are grieving family members of the dead soldiers.

“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,” Albert Snyder, whose son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in action in Iraq in 2006, told CNN.

The court’s order follows its ruling earlier this month in favor of the free speech and assembly rights of the protesters from Westboro Baptist Church, who waved signs saying “God hates the USA”, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and signs with anti-gay slurs at Snyder’s funeral in Maryland.

The Snyder family sued the congregation in 2007, claiming 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, amounts later reduced to $5 million. The congregation appealed and earlier this month the 4th Circuit reversed the jury’s verdict.

“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 (congregation’s) protest, this conduct simply does not satisfy the heavy burden required for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress under Maryland law,” the court ruled.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Snyder family’s appeal.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Topeka (Kan.) church, founded in the 1950s and incorporated in the 1960s, “is a small virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group that regularly stages protests around the country, often several times a week.” In addition to military funerals, the congregation — composed primarily of leader Fred Phelps and his family members — stages protests at other sorts of funerals as well as at churches it considers heretical (nearly all others) and synagogues.

Congregation members say that “God’s hatred is one of His holy attributes.” The congregation’s various Web sites have included godhatesamerica.com and godhatesfags.com.

On the positive side, the courts’ continuing protection of Westboro’s hateful protests gives lie to claims by some evangelicals that laws against hate speech will prevent ministers from preaching against homosexuality. As Westboro proves week after week, hate speech does not necessarily lead to hate crimes.

On the other hand, it seems beyond cruel that courts can’t protect grieving families of soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the sorts of freedom Westboro’s hateful protesters are using to ridicule and distress grieving families.

It also seems beyond redemption that people who call themselves Christians can be so hateful to grieving families.

They say freedom isn’t free. They also say they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

About

  • FarnazMansouri

    This is one bunch of inbred lunatics. We’ve covered anti-gay white churches ad inifinitum, and now this bunch of crazies.When can we expect some attention to the anti-gay African American churches of which there is no shortage?There are many African American gay men and women; they count, too.

  • LB13

    Last year, the Westboro crew picketed a private school in the Midwest that my niece attends (as I recall, the Phelpsies objected to the “multicultural” pictures on the school’s website). In response, the students and faculty in the upper school (grades 9-12) decided to each contribute a quarter for every minute the Phelps group picketed. They raised more than $2,000 and donated it to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which supports gay rights and anti-hate efforts.

  • cassie123

    Ultimately, I see this as free speech. They have the right to say what they think. Are they cruel? Yes. Does their message get lost in their hate? Yes. I would rather not hear them, but they have just as much rights to protest as I do to protest them. I love freedom of speech too much to let these people ruin it and take it away from my right to say what I think. Fortunately, these people are the minority! I hope they learn to see past their hate. I feel bad for the father and his family. As others have said, I wouldn’t necessarily characterize them as a church.

  • Athena4

    Well, as much as it pains me to say it, kudos to Bill O’Reilly for standing up for this. I think that he’s using it to get publicity for himself (to counter all of the publicity that Glenn Beck is getting), but it’s still a good deed. I guess a broken clock is right twice a day. Actually, there are probably LOTS of liberals like me who were just quietly waiting for a place to send their donations to help out this family. Like the college kids that took donations for pro-GLBT organizations across the street from the Westboro Wankers protest, may I suggest that people do the same wherever these losers are protesting.I wonder how long it’s going to take before we find Fred Phelps in bed with a gay prostitute, like Ted Haggard?

  • marieburns

    To me, the Phelps protests are substantively different from the usual disruptive & obnoxious protests which the First Amendment should protect.Most protests are avoidable by the general public (just keep away) or are a legitimate part of public discourse (no matter how crude or rude) that people in public roles & quasi-public businesses have to endure.But the Snyders & their grieving friends & families couldn’t just go somewhere else for Matthew’s funeral. They are not public officials, either; they are private citizens. As such, they have a legal right to an expectation of privacy, not just a moral right that every normal person would respect. The law should protect them from harassment. I think the Preamble to the Constitution does that when it promises to “insure domestic tranquility.” I don’t think the founders meant the First Amendment to nullify the Preamble. I agree with the lower court, & I sure hope the Supremes do, too.In the meantime, wherever the Phelps live or work or spew their venon, I’d suggest Veterans groups start harassing them, too.The Constant Weader at http://www.RealityChex.com

  • dolph924

    Look for the churches of some of these crazies to be destroyed — with or without the crazies inside. Not all grieving families will react non-violently to this outrage. Maybe if the crazies had a bit more “skin in the game,” they’d reconsider the wisdom of insulting and enraging those grieving loved ones. I know one thing — if I were a juror in a case involving violence against these folks, I’d hang the jury for sure, even if the only defense was the “Texas Defense” (i.e., “the SQB had it coming.”

  • ben16

    I don’t see any other congregations picketing the Westboro Baptist Church…where’s the outrage of real Christians????? Or is the issue that most other “Christian” religions have hate for homosexuals as well.

  • lepidopteryx

    Cassie, a funeral is not a public event. Protesting at a private funeral is every bit as much an act of harassment and terrorism as burning a cross on someone’s lawn.

  • RichardHode

    Austininnc4 raised an interesting point. How is it that these people have carried on for so long without getting killed? They must select their targets very carefully, for there are many places these folks would get shot by the mourners. It is my guess that they mostly target funerals in small towns, because I can’t see them coming to East Los Angeles to protest at the funeral of a Pfc. Jesus Gonzales, for example. That would result in the immediate decimation of the Westboro Baptist Church.

  • bob2davis

    If sexual orientation had been included in the hate crimes legislation, this would all be moot. Since the 80s Phelps and his disgusting brood have been protesting at funerals of people who died from AIDS. It was only a matter of time before he used the same sick reasoning to expand his group of potential victims. Had sexual orientation been included in the hate crimes bill, Phelps would be in jail now instead of harassing more innocent Americans. It is far easier to modify an existing law than it is to restrict constitutional freedoms. Who knew that protecting gay people would help the military!

  • lufrank1

    Geeze! Whatever happened to that wise saying. “Your Freedom Ends Where My Nose Begins”If those protesting “Christians” are going to be in heaven, I want to go to hell, so I can be with more decent souls.

  • LaBarge

    Protection’s butt. It has long been accepted that “fighting words” are not protected. They’ve already been protected, when no one at the funeral beat them til they whimpered for their precious savior.Some people don’t know when to “give thanks.”How much do you want to bet that if I lined up with the old Norse gods and got to practicing my religion on a bunch of christians none would support its protection.Every vets groups should put its weight behind overturning this decision, whatever it takes.

  • patrick3

    America needs to come to grips with the fact that it no longer has the strength of character necessary to practice free speech, rule of law, due process and the Geneva Conventions.It’s just a matter of time before the pretense falls apart and America accepts the truth about itself.

  • coregis

    The Phelps clan is nothing but a group of lawyers with a religion tag. I know of no church that even remotely comes close to endorsing their behavior, and I live in a very conservative area not far from Mr. Snyder. I can recall someone say to a person burning an American flag that “You have the constitutional right to burn that flag. I, however, have the ability to beat the snot out of you.” Karma is tough sometimes, especially for the Phelps family.

  • mbrumble

    DEM4LIFE1, GOOOOOOOOOOO Toyota. If you need a witness, let me know.

  • wildfyre99

    Maybe people need to start protesting their Sunday services…

  • frantaylor

    Free speech is not absolute. You can’t yell fire in a theater. There are limits. Stop pretending there are no limits. We have to draw a line in the sand, and where we draw that line speaks to what we are as people. What does it say about us as people when we think that these people have not crossed that line?

  • nadinem

    Why can’t some group be formed that will follow these freaks around and hold up huge sheets between poles, blocking off the view of the freaks by the families. They can vie for position between the freaks and the families, and their “signs” will block out the view of these idiots.As they vie for space to be seen, they can be edged further and further from view. When it becomes an issue in court, that one group of protesters is blocking the free speech of other protesters, the the group blocking the signs of the freaks can claim that this is their “performance art.”Let the courts chew on that, and just keep appearing and just keep blocking the signs of the freaks.

  • pmendez

    Remember — Diversity is our strength!America benefits from the vibrancy of many different cultures and religions! We are a better nation because of our happy mix of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Homosexual-Hating Fundamentalists!We should all learn to celebrate the many different voices that sing the song that is America, including the voices that heckle the families of dead soldiers in their time of grief! For America is not a Melting Pot. It is a glorious Tossed Salad of multi-cultural delight!

  • fred4945

    Fred Phelps is a lawyer. (Get this: his specialty was civil rights law. In other words, he could be very liberal when there was money to be made.) Some 20 years ago, he was disbarred by the federal courts in Kansas for defamatory comments to and about judges. (I believe his daughter was later disbarred for similar reasons.)It remains to be seen whether federal judges will afford the parents of dead patriots the same protections from abusive speech which they afforded each other.

  • therev1

    Doesn’t it occur to anyone that the guilty always squeal the loudest? Those who bash gays are always self-hating homosexuals whose self hate is directed at others. Can anyone say Larry Craig? I thought you could.

  • vigor

    What if people started picketing and protesting at the Westboro Church with signs like:Satan lives here.Satan loves idiots.The heartless jerks live here.

  • member8

    Not near enough creativity in dealing with these nutjobs. First of all, Hadinem has the right ideal In our outrage over their hate-spewing we’ve forgotten that the best weapon against them is RIDICULE. Meet them not with counter-protests, but with parodies. Second, since they apparently gain their money by provoking attacks and then suing, use the discovery process against them. If they claim physical injury, you can force them to be examined by a doctor and ALL PRIOR INJURIES can be disclosed. Same goes for psychological injury if they claim that – wouldn’t you just love to have one in front of a shrink? Third, most states and the federal courts have rules to tie the hands of someone who engages in repeated frivolous litigation. Use them. Fourth, their targeting of grieving families who have nothing to do with the issue they claim to be protesting sounds like intentional infliction of emotional distress. How about somebody suing THEM? And finally, where is Child Protective Services when they’re hauling minor children around on these protests? Are they in violation of homeschool statutes? Is allowing the children to witness confrontations neglectful supervision? If the kids are spending most of their lives on the road what about visits to doctors and dentists? Seems like the minute this lot hits town the first thing that should happen should be a visit from a child-welfare social worker.

  • jacques21

    A sad collection of bigots…needing attention. They should not be allowed to demonstrate within blocks of the funerals.What twisted philosophy indicating God hates. Sad tiny little people.

  • Skowronek

    Actually, there are probably LOTS of liberals like me who were just quietly waiting for a place to send their donations to help out this family. Like the college kids that took donations for pro-GLBT organizations across the street from the Westboro Wankers protest, may I suggest that people do the same wherever these losers are protesting.I wonder how long it’s going to take before we find Fred Phelps in bed with a gay prostitute, like Ted Haggard?Posted by: Athena4 | April 1, 2010 1:58 PM I’m going to hazard a guess here, Athena4. But I would think that if the family’s names are known and their address (or po box) found on a web site, then nothing is stopping anyone from sending them a check to cover the financial costs they have incurred with that pack of rabid inbred mouth breathing morons. People, when your family “tree” is best described as the family bamboo patch, it’s time to stop viewing cousins as potential mates. It felled the Habsburg dynasty, after all. You can get away with THAT kind of line breeding with cattle and to a much smaller degree, horses and dogs.

  • Athena4

    People HAVE sued the WBC, like the father of the deceased soldier. Unfortunately, they lost. And, apparently a group called the “Million F*G March” is protesting outside of WBC in Topeka on May 1. Google it for more information, since I can’t post the link here.

  • Chasmosaur1

    The thing that always gets me about this, is that this is hardly something Jesus Christ – whether or not you accept his divinity – would have advocated. It is purely about hatred and intolerance. That is not the primary message of Christianity, so I’m not exactly sure how WBC can call themselves Christians.

  • nashvillemykl

    Now that Albert Snyder’s $16,500 judgement from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has been covered, I think it’s time for some legitimate entity to establish a legal defense fund for the person or persons who finally put and end to the Phelps clan’s sadistic wanderings from coast to coast inflicting hatred, pain and heartache on those least deserving of that. As a society…regardless of our personal political or social positions, conservative, liberal, Republican or Democrat, even straight or gay…I think we can agree that we have almost all had far beyond enough of the Phelps.

  • Skowronek

    “I think it’s time for some legitimate entity to establish a legal defense fund for the person or persons who finally put and end to the Phelps clan’s sadistic wanderings from coast to coast inflicting hatred, pain and heartache on those least deserving of that.”The problem is that it doesn’t matter one whit if you stop these particular individuals. More fungi will pop up in their wake. Nature abhors a vacuum–even of vicious jerks.”I think we can agree that we have almost all had far beyond enough of the Phelps’. I join you in that dream–but we all know that not to be the case. There are plenty of people who would take their place.

  • papafritz57

    I often wonder about the Phelps family and where they get their money to travel to so many different states to desecrate

  • muawiyah

    BOB2DAVIS ~ Brer’ Phelps has never drawn the line at picketing funerals of just those who died of AIDS. He is protesting AMERICAN society’s behavior regarding homosexuals, and to get his point across he’s addressing his complaint at those who are dying in military service.This is beyond fighting words. He’s made himself into an enemy alien.

  • cadam72

    I agree with the poster that said he painfully supports all freedom of speech. The Phelps’ views are regugnant, as is their distruction of a solemn moment of reverance at a funeral, but to disallow that speech is even more troublesome because it may allow for the codifying of “some” freedom of speech but not others. As long as they are all bark and no bit, ignore them. the best we can do is to counter their hatred and drown their angry voices with our own speeches showing their chirch does not speek for us.

  • muawiyah

    MANDRAKE ~ the difference between privacy in the burial of a loved one and going to the abortuary to kill your baby is usually pretty apparent to most people.If you can’t tell the difference yet you should seek counseling.Now, let’s get back to the Phelps family ~ probably the best way to deal with them is to pass along their name to Hammas as a “soft, easy target that will make you popular with Americans”.

  • LaBarge

    Well, well. For all the enlightened “tolerance” around here, protecting speech however obnoxious, and yak yak, my second comment has been censored, I mean, removed.I guess I should have written it on a signboard and picketed a christian funeral.Typical.

  • brattykathyi1

    Why on earth are you citing the ADL? They’re another group of lunatic hate mongers lost in ancient mythology. All these mental midgets need to join the 21st century. Stop practicing the rites and rituals of cavemen. Give up their primitive superstitions. And please, quit fighting over which one of you has the best imaginary sky daddy.

  • muawiyah

    GKAM ~ you’ve gone too far this time. When it comes to “Religious Conservatives” you are hung up on the “Conservative” part ~ and that’s fighting words.M60s at 5 meters ~ ~ !(Whatever that means).The point you are trying to make suggests to me that you find “Religious Conservatives” as manifest in the appearance of child monks in Thai Buddhism are going to leap out of the bushes somewhere and savage tourists or something.Or, that you fear the few remaining shamen in North Asia that Joe Stalin didn’t murder are preparing for thermonuclear holocaust.BTW, nothing more conservative than a shaman!This thread is not for you.

  • insider9909

    I can tell you that if it had been one of my family members that funeral was desecrated, there would be a blood-feud shooting war. You can call us Okie hillbillies backwards, but the Phelps bunch would certainly respect us or be dead before it was over.

  • muawiyah

    DCSTEVE1 ~ a discussion of free speech and its limits is certainly not the place for you to come in and demand Fascist solutions.Be patient.

  • LaBarge

    It’s not just in rural America. And we all need to stop pretending and call this emergent fascism in the US by its name. It isn’t christianity, it isn’t conservatism. It’s an ugly, hateful thing that doesn’t need to be conscious of itself as a fascism to be one. It’s always a national movement and doesn’t need funny costumes or torchlight parades.Some things are not worthy of tolerance and they receive it from fools and cowards.

  • bran-solo

    The posting by MIDWESTRACHEL and others confirming that several of these people are or were lawyers has pretty much convinced me that these people really are just a bunch of con-artists using their knowledge of the law to make a buck. Every religion has its share of fringe whackos but these people would have to be considered outliers even to that range of behavior. Since they clearly have no shame I doubt counter protests etc. would ever have any effect on them and physically confronting them is exactly what they want. Hate to say it but ignoring them is probably the only strategy. When they can no longer make a buck by baiting people into a lawsuit situation they will disappear. Faced with the prospect of having to work for a living they will wander off and find something else to pretend to be outraged about.

  • WestTexan2008

    MRZ2 wrote: The godless Southern-Baptist/Klu-Klux-Klan/Republican all-white Westboro Baptist Church has been rewarded for its racist, hate and terrorist activities.==============Before posting something like this, do some homework. Fred Phelps is a life-long Democrat – he ran for office in Kansas as a Democrat three times. His law firm specializes in civil rights cases; primarily racial discrimination. His church has several black members.Again, do some research before you just spew.

  • Martial

    Verbally joining this “Church” with either the Southern Baptists or the Republican Party is beneath contempt. So noxious are Mr. Phelps and his congregants that it is conceivable that David Duke might consider the verbal joining of their group with the KKK to be beneath contempt. What kind of person disrupts funerals?

  • samscram

    I disagree with the conclusion: “…it seems beyond cruel that courts can’t protect grieving families of soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the sorts of freedom Westboro’s hateful protesters are using to ridicule and distress grieving families.” The Constitution protects the freedom of of the people to peaceably assemble and speak their opinion, however odious.Cpl. Matthew Snyder died protecting those freedoms and, as such, with all due respect to his grieving parents and family, the lawsuit was a mistake.

  • lafayette89

    How horrible. Their son dies for his country, these vermin violate the privacy of the family as they are grieving at his funeral, they react with outrage as would any family whose memory of their son has been so besmirched, and now the family has to apologize and pay them for trampling their right to free speech. Amazing. Hitler and his Brown Shirts would have found the US a great place to operate. This is really shameful. Jew-haters take note!!! All is not lost!

  • bobbo2

    The decision by these Judges should be career ending. The leader of this church must be a deity to the members. The disgusting behavior by these people is made even more so by the inclusion of their children in the protests. Groups such as this eventually retreat to a compound to live in together. We all know what happens after that.

  • gasmonkey

    The 4th Circuit is dead wrong. The 1st Amendment has never been held to protect “fighting words.” Those are words so confrontational that a reasonable man would be moved to immediate violent reaction, and this certainly qualifies. Protesting at anybody’s funeral qualifies, in my view, but particularly at the funeral of someone who gave his life protecting this country. It is only a matter of time before it is proven that these are fighting words.

  • Brittman1

    I don’t understand why Phelps’ outfit continues to be called a “church” and is covered by the Post in the Faith section. Is there no accepted definition within the religious community of what constitutes a church?

  • spidermean2

    racerdoc wrote “but as a scientist I believe DARWIN over Creationism. I believe that there is nothing wrong with GAY MARRIAGE as it has absolutely nothing to do with my marriage and in no way affects me and mine nor you and yours. Same with abortion. There are medical and psychological reasons for abortion, and I, who will not have an abortion, refuses to tell any other woman what is right or wrong for her under her own circumstances. Same with porn. I don’t watch it, but it is a form of expression that some people enjoy. It does not harm me nor most people.When you start saying that we need to clean up our own garbage, be very careful about sounding LIKE THE PHELPS clan.”This is exactly the reason why I said that except for the picketing at funerals of dead soldiers, the man (Phelps) may have some positive points. You NEED TO HEAR what they have to say about your beliefs. You are full of garbage and America will burn if there are millions out there who think like yourself. Speaking about creationism, do you guys understand it? Do you know the science behind SELF-REPLICATION? Don’t you know that is part of creationism?

  • spidermean2

    Life still exist today not because of the idiotic Evolution but because of SELF-REPLICATION.Use your brains.

  • revbookburn

    As we have learned from Pastor Ted Haggard and Sen. Larry Craig (R), and so many others, the louder one preaches bigotry against gay people, the more dirty secrets they have in their closets. The most revealing moment with Phelps was when an interviewer asked him if he ever experinced gay intimacy. He blustered and shouted. But he never answered the question.

  • VirginiaConservative

    ANd who stood up for the Marines’ father?Bill O’reilly.Not the ABA, not a liberal, not a democrat.You see they only see the troops as props – not those who buy our way of life with their blood.

  • bikes-everywhere

    Yes, it is free speech, but I’m not sure these guys should be enabled by our tax code.Why are these guys even qualified for tax exempt status as a religious organization? So could any cause/hate group profess itself as a religion, and get tax exempt status? I think it is time for an audit.

  • mradams

    We know now which church the fallen angel Satan has fallen into. These people are bitter, insane, evil beings.

  • Georgetowner1

    A group ought to go over to that so-called church during one of their “services” and disrupt it every Sunday. This group is not Christian, they are like the KKK in calling themselves Christian. Or the terrorists calling themselves Muslim. The Bible does teach against homosexualit (Romans 1:1, in example) but that does not mean that it is apropriate to use someone else’s time of grief to promote your whacko agenda. It’s just another example of someone figuring out how to get media attention, like that girl who announced she was going to bring a girlfriend to her school prom (she wangled an appearance on Ellen out of that). It’s all balloon boy manipulation.

  • muawiyah

    In an earlier time in this country ~ back in the days of the Founding Fathers in fact ~ this sort of situation would have been settled privately.The aggrieved parties might well have beaten the Westboro bunch into dog meat, or gotten Rev. Phelps to engage in a duel.The “law” would have ignored the consequences and gone on about its business of taking care of meaningful public affairs.Today, in a more polite period of our history, this dispute is on its way to the Supreme Court.Some of our polite people think that this is simply “the odious speech that must be protected”. Others think we’ve made a mistake in structuring our laws such that “odious speech” has a privileged place in our society, and because of that we aren’t really as polite as we believe ourselves to be.Maybe the Founders had it right. You want to badmouth someone they get to badmouth you, and if you get hurt, so what ~ not the business of government to interfere in such things.

  • Gatsby10

    The Phelps family is evil incarnate. Who finances those lunatics? It’s not cheap traveling around the country several times a week.

  • dem4life1

    The day I drive by one of these protests is the day the gas pedal on my Toyota fails. Fortunately it will correct itself but not until every one of the westboro pigs are road kill.

  • JG08

    Even free speech has time, place, and manner restrictions. Just as it is inappropriate to yell “Fire!” in a crowded room (when there isn’t one, of course), it is inappropriate, indecent, and disrespectful to not allow a family to bury their son or daughter in peace. In a civil society, we must give up some freedoms (such as hitting people or stealing) to promote the general collective good.My thoughts and prayers are with the Snyders – and may God have mercy on the Phelps family and their ilk, for I am fairly certain none of us will.

  • mandrake

    I’m not sure how this is any different from the protestors outside abortion clinics. Those anti-abortion protestors have blazed the trail for these Westboro Baptist people and already set much of the law protecting them. They are simply both logical results of religion when taken to their extreme ends.

  • spidermean2

    You can’t leave a child to a gay person (closet or openly gay)even for 1 minute unless you want that child to grow up to be gay.Protect your children. One must understand that homosexuality is a DISEASE. “Likewise, their men have given up natural sexual relations with women and burn with lust for each other. Men commit indecent acts with men, so they experience among themselves the PUNISHMENT they deserve for their perversion.” (Romans 1:27)

  • rcc_2000

    My question is when protesters wanted to demonstrate in Texas against Bush, if I recall, they were able to prevent them from doing so anywhere within sight of George II ranch. Why can’t the soldiers also be given such protection? I actually support their right to protest (although I think they are even more vile than Sarah Palin and thats saying a lot).

  • JuniusPublicus

    The graveside “protestors” make the case for me that when I see people doing something really, really stupid, it is invariably for “religious” purposes. When I see something really shameful, like the Papal coverup of child abuse, it is invariably for “religious” purposes. And don’t forget, that this and the other Marines sent off to die, did so under the banner, “God Bless America,” so when I see something really, really bloody and murderous, I can be virtually assured it is for “religious” purposes. As a former altar boy, when some one says “religion” to me, I head for the exit.

  • hohandy1

    The family is the one who originally sued and took the case to court. Regardless of how odious the church is, they were following their legal rights. The family should have realized when they initiated legal procedings that it might not go their way. It’s sad – but I’m glad that the system is based upon laws and rules rather than emotion.

  • curtb

    I’m sure that the Rev. Phelps considers the actions of his church “extremism in defense of liberty”. That’s the big problem with the above statement. With extremists, liberty becomes whatever your brain tells you it is. This is extremism in defense of ideology, and a lunatic one at that. And I take exception to the above statement that this is constitutionally acceptable. It’s taking away the rights of the families of the dead to give the lost a dignified farewell. Let them speak their minds away from the services. If not, it could happen to any of us, for any warped reason. Protests at your funeral because you didn’t believe in the same thing that the protesters believed in.

  • Nymous

    Fred Phelps personally assaulted me in the early 1990′s for no good reason at all. Before God was off hating soldiers, apparently He had a thing against college students & academics. My introduction to him came by way of him rushing to intersect the closest passerby on a quad at a local college. He was screaming and frothing and wouldn’t let me continue on my way. He had the somewhat infamous Westboro style `God Hates ____’ signs, & his now somewhat more grown children were with him. I came very close to a worse altercation with him, but students who knew what was going on saved me from it. They physically interposed themselves between Fred & myself and pulled me away. They then worked to keep him at bay while the campus police showed up.The man struck me and spit on me, and I walked away from him. I didn’t do it without help, but to this day I’m proud of myself for having done it.At the time, his kids did not look very happy to be there at all. In fact they looked frightened by what they were expected to do. I suppose he’s long since beaten the common sense out of them, but I know what I saw then, and it was abusive.

  • Catken1

    Best way to deal with them is to collect charity money for gay rights groups or veterans’ groups or whatever based on how long they protest. That way, their protest has a positive effect on the people they hate, and it gets stronger the longer they’re out there. Hold up a sign telling them how much you collected, too. Respond to speech with more speech.Family members ought to be proud that their dead loved ones are protested by such a group of hateful, nasty people. If these were his/her enemies, s/he must have been a good and worthy person in life.

  • abbyandmollycats

    I heard an unverified story that when students at our local high school heard the Phelps family was coming to conduct one of their demonstrations outside the school, the students turned it into a fundraiser for AIDS research. The kind where people are asked to pledge X amount per unit of time that something happens. I don’t know if the students were actually able to do this, or if it was just a good idea that never came to fruition.

  • Ynot1

    Westboro “Baptist” “Church” is not part of the Southern Baptist Convention.

  • ohiodumb

    The cretins of this so called church travel all over the country. Well most places still have those little signs that say we reserve the right to refuse service. So how about protesting the grocery store that sells them food, the phone company that gives them service, the airlines that sell them tickets, the gas stations that sell them fuel. if they want to be isolated from society then give them what they want, no food, no communications, no means to travel. Come on Kansas, start telling those who do sell to the church members that you will associate their companies name with the antics of these lowlifes.

  • Paladin7b1

    It would seem that the type of speech engaged in by the protestors was exactly the type of speech designed to induce imminent lawless action. This may be why the Supreme Court decided to grant certiorari (rarely done) to look at the decision of the Fourth Circuit which held that the protestor’s speech was protected speech. Perhaps this is an area where the law must intervene, instead of good morals, to protect the interests and the safety of people.Such speech has little to do with religion, and more to do with hate. Justice Black’s view that there should be no limits to free speech is unfortunaly incorrect.

  • dem4life1

    I like my idea better, MOW EM DOWN!

  • coloradodog

    Where are good Christian Baptists who don’t denounce Phelps use of their name? They are no more than the silent Muslims who don’t denounce their murderous terrorists.Combined with catholic clergy gay-bashing while hiding pedophiles this is more proof religion is complete hypocrisy.

  • jonblackman57

    I understand that this so called “church” is a group of lawyers who have banded together in the name of a church to MAKE MONEY with court settlements. There should be some type of formal investigation into this “church”, it’s leadership, and who is tied in with who, what is being done with the settlements, etc.

  • Nymous

    RichardHode,I don’t understand them, I consider them an insult to all faiths. I believe they actively attack civil society in the USA, and every other religion as well with their activities.I hope not to have to ever encounter them again. I feel bad for those who have to deal with them. I am not “Anonymous” nor do I speak for them or /b/, but I’m somewhat surprised they haven’t managed to stir that hornets nest yet. Not that I’d suggest such a thing, however more to the point there are an awful lot of people online who do not like them. That they would reap some net effect for their actions does seem inevitable though.

  • buckminsterj

    For more on Westboro Baptist Church, I suggest the documentary “Fall from Grace.” It can be viewed instantly on Netflix. The church, it turns out, actually comprises little more than the extended Phelps familiy. Very incestuous, and the interviews with some of the young grandchildren are absolutely chilling. Though at one point, one of Phelps’ sons uses the phrase “for rizzle” – high comedy.

  • djmolter

    I’m all for free speech, but this crosses a line, even though I’m against the wars and am not gay. These “Christians” need to think about this: What punishment awaits those who presume to speak for god? Perhaps someone should picket their church with signs reading: GOD HATES THOSE WHO SULLY HIS GOOD NAME

  • jaxas70

    What is it about rural America that so many lunatics thrive out there? America is becoming Crackpot Central with all of these angry mobs on the streets, all of these middle aged beer bellies running around our forests playacting like children yet sporting dangerous automatic weapons.We always boast about the land of the free. If this is what all of those tea party cranks out there call freedom, I want no part of it. I am seriously thinking of moving out of this sick, sick country.

  • JPRS

    I agree with others who basically think these people are con artists. Basically, their goal seems to be — “provoke reaction, collect money”. That’s the angle that they’re working. As far as free speech rights go, time and place should weigh in the balance. If the whole purpose of the language is incitement — and its directed at private individuals — it would make sense to have some kind of restrictions on time and place. In terms of the balance of interests — at what point is the language intended for political purposes, and at what point is the language merely a form of harassment? It’s no accident that these white-trash hustlers are targeting private citizens when they are most vulnerable.We have some restrictions on things like pornography — in my view this is just another variety of the same kind of thing. You know it when you see it. Hopefully SCOTUS tosses the damages.

  • Freethotlib

    The Westboro Church is the final result of what will happen if the contry goes totally conservative. Mindless hate, in your face mindless hate, in your face, I’m protected and can torture you if I want mindless hate. The one thing that I can hold dear is that I know they will be punished in the end. Even GOD, their GOD and ours, can’t abide such hate and can not allow such hate to be forgiven or rewarded. They’ll end up in the same place that Cheney and Bush are headed for.

  • PaulKMurray

    @marieburns: “To me, the Phelps protests are substantively different from the usual disruptive & obnoxious protests which the First Amendment should protect.” Which is why the protection of our rights is not up to you – or me. This protest was obnoxious, this “church” is obnoxious, but they do have the right to do it – just like the other people whose protests you like, but that I might not. The absurdity here is that the court is making the Snyder’s pay the costs.And how did this suddenly become about the Vatican?

  • jhalldc

    I remember when these wackos protested the Mathew Shepard memorial service. Fellow students put on angle wings and surrounded the Westboro nuts so their hateful signs couldn’t be seen through the wings.

  • gary4books

    I can only tell the story that the tree is known by its fruit proverbial saying, early 16th century, meaning that a person is judged by what they do and produce; originally with biblical allusion to Matthew 12:33.I have no doubt that they will pay for this activity – sooner or later.

  • jimjohnd

    SO when does ‘free-speech’ cross the line to HARASSMENT? Could a grieving family member with a gun claim temporary insanity? These freaks are just about harassment and deserve whatever they eventually get. I only hope it is as long and painful as they have inflicted on others.

  • Davidd1

    Mr. waters,

  • jebintz

    This “lunatic fringe” has constantly defied the laws of decency and common sense so much, that the church has been banned from every Baptist organization in the US. Phelps is more concerned with spreading messages of hate then spreading god’s word. Perhaps when it is time for HIM to meet the maker, the lord will have a LONG chat with him about it and send him to a special circle of hell reserved for people like him.

  • jeffc6578

    Albert Snyder could kill every member of Phelps’ church, and every member of the fourth circuit, and I was a juror at his trial, there is NO WAY I would vote to convict.

  • pechins

    You ended the article with, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” I think the Supreme Court will side with the young Marines family. The SC ruled years ago that you cannot go and protest with the intent to disrupt or cause a fight at a rally.

  • DCSteve1

    Replying to:”I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole act was cooked up by those pushing the radical homosexual agenda, and intended as satire along the lines of the equally fictitious “Landover Baptist Church®.”Posted by: thebump | April 1, 2010 12:45 AMWhat a reprehensible, ignorant comment, Thebump. The next time you’re tempted to post something that asinine, please do us all a favor and use this handy thing called a search engine. If you had, you’d see hundreds of news reports confirming that Westboro Baptist Church is all too real. You’d also find that there’s no such thing as “the radical homosexual agenda.” (By the way, I’ve clicked on “Report Offensive Comment” and nothing happens. Moderators, please enable that function, and monitor your site, to make it harder for people like Thebump to spew their toxic garbage.)

  • imZandor

    These people are NO CHRISTIANS!!!This is just a tax dodge religion and NOT REAL!!!The IRS should and can take away their nonexempt status…EVERY CHURCH SHOULD PAY TAXES…PERIOD!!!Follow the money…this has NOTHING TO DO WITH GOD!!!This has EVERYTHING TO DO WITH A NUT JOB IDIOT WHO RUNS A FULL ON CULT!!!HE SHOULD BE TAKEN AROUND THE BACK OF THE FAKE CHURCH OUT BY THE WOOD SHED AND TAUGHT WHAT RESPECT MEANS!A GOOD BEAT DOWN IS HOW THEY RAISED THEIR CHILDREN SO MAYBE A GOOD BEAD DOWN FOR THE LEADER IS IN ORDER!!!PEOPLE WITH THIS RED OF A NECK ONLY UNDERSTAND A SWITCH OFF OF A TREE APPLIED ACROSS THEIR BACK SIDE. (with the bark stripped of course)WITH THE IDIOT LEADER…MAYBE USE THE WHOLE BRANCH AND KNOCK HIM OVER THE HEAD A FEW TIMES TO GET HIS ATTENTION.Problem is nothing will get through to idiots & morons like this…but a good whop-assing is always in order anyway!!

  • FarnazMansouri

    There is nothing satyrical about this bunch of Fred Phelps’ inbred lunatics. They do take up a lot of Kentucky court time, and the state would be much happier if Phelps et al relocated to Argentina.I recall a hideous incident not far from where I teach. The fiance of murdered co-ed Ana Li had arranged for a memorial service to be held for her at his synagogue. Some distance away were Phelps and co-cretins behind a fence, with police, carrying their idiotic placards.My students wondered why Phelps, et al, had not been arrested for harassment. They also wondered (!) who was paying for his police protection. Good questions, both.That said, this particular lunatic is no danger to servicemen, gays, or Jews. Their are greater dangers to the mental and physical well-being of all three.On the matter of gays, OnFaith continually posts on radical right-wing white Protestant churches, thereby giving the very wrong impression that the opposition to gays, in general, is an issue for whit right wingnuts, exclusively.An essay on the position of anti-gay Black Protestant churches is long, long overdue. There are many black gays, men and women. They count, too.

  • Utahreb

    When are the decent Baptist churches going to take a stand agains the religious fanatics who claim the name “Baptist”? First we have these idiots disrupting burials with their immoral and hate-filled mobs and then we had the missionaries from a Baptist congregation in Idaho taking children from parents in Haiti by telling them lies.The Baptist Church is either for these groups or against them – and should take a stand before they are all tarnished by the actions of these groups.

  • Reesh

    Like it or not, soldering and war are controversial activities. They result in killing. Many people consider killing to be wrong on different levels. Anti-war and pro-life protests are nothing new and usually are considered protested free speech. The protesters are acting from a moral imperative. While the timing of the message may be insensitive, the message itself is not trivial and cannot be suppressed under the Bill of Rights.

  • cstation

    I wonder what the constitution does to protect the rights of grieving loved ones to bury their dead in peace. Or protect the thousands of God loving Baptists against these so called “independent” Baptists churches that are often populated by misfits from the faith. Or for that matter the millions of Christians who wince when these nut-cases say they are working for Jesus Christ.Monty Keeling

  • arancia12

    ANd who stood up for the Marines’ father?How sad. Bill O’ uses issues like this for publicity and you lap it up. He uses these kinds of things for props every day but you refuse to see it. All Bill O’ did was come up with the $16,000 which he spends on loofas every month anyway. That’s nothing for him to get some publicity.But isn’t this the way conservatives think things should work? There should be no federal help for a guy like Snyder. He should go to a charity if he needs help paying the bills. I’m surprised good Virginia conservatives didn’t dig into their pockets and help pay the bill. Very surprised. I think Justice Scalia said the Constitution is a dead document and must be interpreted absolutely. Therefore, by defending the horrific Phelps family’s right to speech we defend your right to speech too.

  • daweeni

    I don’t understand why these jerks haven’t had a string of unfortunate accidents.

  • schnauzer21

    Anyone ever notice how much Fred Phelps looks like the eveil Satan/preacher character from the later Poltergeist movies? Just thinking out loud.Actually it makes me wish there really was a hell so that I could go on knowing these lunatics will truly get what they deserved.

  • acebojangles

    It does seem that these people’s despicable actions should be protected as speech.How about protesting at their church? or would that just give them more of the attention they crave?

  • rcvinson64

    Like it or not, this is the odious speech that needs protecting. Just ignore them.

  • alex35332

    As a member of the real anti-war movement, let me just say a giant FU to these nuts. Even we would draw the line at protesting at someones funeral, especially with as many people in our movement that have lost friends and family in the wars. Since I doubt there is a heaven or hell, rather than wait for “Gods” judgement I think the american people would be better off judging these A-holes ourselves.

  • MrZ2

    The Church that hates Dead Soldiers.The godless Southern-Baptist/Klu-Klux-Klan/Republican all-white Westboro Baptist Church has been rewarded for its racist, hate and terrorist activities. I am totally against Bush’s wars; however, the death of a US hero who fell in battle is a personal solemn event not to be desecrated by some Southern Baptist Fundamentalist KKK terrorists, home-grown, ignorant, and backward, country folks bussed in from Klan territory to terrorize white folks.The judiciary is hyper-acutely sensitized to KKK type white terrorist hate and violence against the citizens of these United States in the Black community; however, it does not give a damn about those same KKK folks reigning terror on citizens of these United States in the white community. That despicable judge was totally insensitive to white-upon-white violence and terrorist hate crimes and he gave those KKK criminal perpetrators a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, a card they did not deserve. They belong in Jail.

  • TOMMYBASEBALL

    patrick3 – I think that these people have done this for so long “without getting killed” is because in America we do not generally kill people because we don’t like them or disagree with them.Even with variations of these homophobic fools all around (just look at any tea party protest or Dennis Kucinich rally), most Americans are fundamentally good people.

  • agolembe

    As a veteran it pains me to say this. As an American it does not. Protecting freedom of speech means we protect everyone, no matter how they offend us. The Phelps family is disgusting. The more they spew hate, the more they make themselves look like lunatics.I agree we should just ignore them. It is not beyond cruel, it is justice and justice is not always pleasant and not always fair. These people will be judged by God and found wanting. We should feel very, very sorry for them. They will not share in the kingdom of God.

  • qqbDEyZW

    Well after hearing about the Vatican allowing children to be molested from it’s beginning they finally got caught. Well as the church fights abortions for more male kids, it’s not surprise that the Church is against soldiers. Many Priest instructions are to fight for life to abuse and deny soldiers the right to have a funneral in the Church. Well what’s next?

  • bran-solo

    MIDWESTRACHELI had always assumed that the inbreeding had simply brain damaged these little lunatics. In light of her comments though, it seems clear that these people are actually crazy like foxes. What a deliciously perverse testimony to the lengths that some people will go to in order to avoid an honest day’s work. It also explains why they haven’t yet, and probably never will get what’s coming to them in the way that many readers here are predicting. These people are probably much too cagey to actually pick a fight with someone likely to fight back. While I don’t know if MIDWESTRACHEL has her facts straight or not, what she says certainly would fit well. No one could actually be that off the farm and not in an institution and it answered my other question of how do these people afford to travel around the country protesting everything- it’s how they make their living.

  • TOMMYBASEBALL

    VirginiaConservative – if you only watch Bill O you are not going to notice what someone other than Bill O is doing. You know he sure won’t.You need to change the channels once in awhile. I know the thought scares you, but it is what grown ups do.

  • thebump

    These kooks are not a congregation or church but (as the article notes in the umpteenth paragraph) mostly one kooky family.I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole act was cooked up by those pushing the radical homosexual agenda, and intended as satire along the lines of the equally fictitious “Landover Baptist Church®.”

  • FlaGuy954

    We can only hope that the majority of the nine Supreme Court Justices reverses the 4th U.S. Circuit’s reversal of the original judgment and awards the Snyder family the $5 million. Perhaps it would be different if the Snyders were public figures or celebrities who, by their status, would be publicly vulnerable to such incidents. But they are not celebrities or public figures and their privacy rights should be protected from such lunatics as Fred Phelps and Company.

  • LaBarge

    This judge should be compelled to go on every combat mission for the duration of the war(s) or his life, whichever ends first.I can’t remember being this disgusted. Which is saying a good deal.Signed, one p.o.’ed vet.

  • MidwestRachel

    My town is just a few highway hours from this church. Westboro really is one family, 3 or 4 generations of it now. They literally earn their living by winning lawsuits, by baiting people into actions legally defined as “assault.” Many of them are attorneys. The patriarch was one, but he was disbarred. @Farnazmansouri, I’m sure there are anti-gay black churches and I wouldn’t mind seeing stories on that (I’m pretty sure there’s already at least one book on the subject)…but this group really is in a class of its own. They are one-issue professional protesters. In my town alone over the past couple years they have protested at a gay men’s choir performance at a downtown theater, at a high school (a lesbian homecoming queen, possibly?), at a Methodist church where the pastor said something vaguely sympathetic about gay people, at at least one funeral, the Hillel Center, and the University of Missouri. That last was on their way to protest an Elton John concert. I don’t know how their kids have time for school work, since they drag them out each time and give them hateful signs to hold (last one I recall seeing: “God hates Haiti.”)The black churches’ attitudes on gay people would surely be worth a story as a whole, but if you want to see a church that is 100% obsessed with homosexuality 24/7, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a black church that is as *publicly* (outside church walls) in-your-face with their hatred and their assertion that they speak for God and that God hates gays…as this bunch of Topekans.

  • lepidopteryx

    Why am I not surprised to see Spidey taking Fred Philth’s side?

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