Supreme Court: Anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church can picket funerals, Justice Alito is lone dissenter

March 3rd, 2011 by Staff – In a landmark case pitting free speech against privacy rights, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday morning that members of the controversial Westboro Baptist church can protest homosexuality by continuing to picket military funerals.

The court voted 8 to 1 in favor of the Topeka, Kan., church, upholding an appeals court ruling stemming from the father of a dead marine who filed a lawsuit against church members after they picketed his son’s funeral.

The church, which has demonstrated at thousands of funerals and events across the country, has been labeled the lunatic fringe for its tactics — including protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers and declarations that war deaths are God’s punishment for the country’s tolerance of gays.

Justice Samuel Alito was the lone dissenter.

“What Westboro said, in the whole context of how and where it chose to say it, is entitled to ‘special protection’ under the First Amendment,” Roberts wrote in the court’s opinion “and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous.”

Albert Snyder filed a lawsuit against the Rev. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church for intentionally inflicting emotional distress when its members showed up at his son’s funeral outside the Westminster, Md., church where his funeral was to be held.

Matthew Snyder, 20, died in Iraq in 2006.

They showed up with signs that read “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “You’re Going to Hell.”

Forty-eight states, 42 senators and veterans groups sided with Snyder, asking the Supreme Court to shield funerals from Westboro’s “psychological terrorism.”

Phelp’s family members were ecstatic about the Supreme Court’s decision.

“WE’RE DANCING IN THE STREET! @ Wesboro Baptist Church,” tweeted Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of the preacher. She posted a photo of Westboro members giddily celebrating the court’s decision

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment. You are free to voice your opinion but please keep it clean. Any comments using profanity will be rejected.