Jury Awards Father In Law Suit Against Westboro Baptist Church
October 31, 2007
In March 2006, Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania was grieving the death of his son, Marine Lance Cpl Matthew Snyder in Iraq. At the funeral, a demonstration was held by the fundalmentalist church from Topeka, Kansas, Westboro Baptist Church. As we all know, Westboro Baptist Church members have made national media at various times for their vulgar and downright disrespectful behavior at the funerals of our Fallen Heroes. They typically picket the funerals holding signs that state things like “Thank God For Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates Fags.” They claim that they protest, because of the our country’s tolerance for homosexuality and that they feel is the reason that the deaths of Soldiers have occurred. Frankly, these pigs disgust me, I don’t care that they live in my home state. They are vile, cruel and disgusting people.
So it was with great pleasure when I found out today, that the law suit Mr. Snyder brought against the church, for unspecified damages after their picketing of his son’s funeral is only just and right. It was announced today that Mr. Snyder had been awarded nearly $11 Million in a verdict by a jury against the church. The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. Later in the afternoon the jury returned with it’s decision to award $6 million in punative damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress. After the verdict was announced, US District Judge Richard Bennett spoke.
“The size of the award for compensating damages far exceeds the net worth of the defendants.”
Because of the actions of the members of Westboro Baptist Church, a number of states across the nation have passed laws in regards to funeral protests. Congress as well, as passed a law that prohibits such protests at Federal cemeteries. The lawsuit by Mr. Snyder, filed in Maryland, is believed to be the first filed by family members of a fallen servicemember.
According to the verdict that was read, the church and three of it’s leaders, Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, were found liable for invasion of provacy and the intent to inflict emotional distress. In his law suit, Snyder claimed that the protests intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.
Church members testified at the hearing. They said that they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that the deaths of Soldiers are due to the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Their attorneys argued on their behalf, that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion. After the verdict, the judge said that the church’s financial statements, which were earlier sealed, could be released to the plaintiffs.
Prior to the reading of the verdict, church members staged a demonstration outside the federal courthouse. Founder and minister of the church, Fred Phelps, held a sign that read, “God is your enemy” while his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag and read a sign that said, “God hates fag enablers.” As per usual, when they protest at funerals, the church members sang “God Hates America” to the tune of “God Bless America.”
Growing up in Kansas, I recall hearing news about the exploits of this crazy groups of whackos. I have yet to understand their twisted version of what they call Christianity. The things that I was taught as a child about Christianity, are completely opposite of the hate-filled rhetoric that these disgust people spew. Mr. Snyder sobbed as he heard the verdict being read. I am so glad that Mr. Snyder finally found a small bit of solace, in the jury’s verdict today. I hope that parents of other Fallen Warriors, will follow the lead of Mr. Snyder and let these evil people know that they’re not going to stand for this type of behavior. I commend the jury for doing the RIGHT thing, by stating very clearly that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated.