Two days ago, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the case against Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist church, brought by the father of a soldier, Matthew Snyder, killed in Iraq in 2006.
The members of the WBC warned of a protest and then appeared at the funeral of this soldier bearing signs such as "God Hates Fags", "Semper Fi Fag" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers". WBC contends is that soldiers are being killed because God hates America for condoning adultery, homosexuality and other things. Matthew Snyder was not a homosexual, but should that matter?
Matt Synder's father filed a civil suit, charging defamation and invasion of privacy and won however the Appellate court overturned it, citing Free Speech protection.
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide on the three questions below:
- Does [the case] Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell (which held that public figures cannot claim damages for free speech targeting them) apply to a private person versus another private person concerning a private matter?
- Does the First Amendment's freedom of speech tenet trump the First Amendment's freedom of religion and peaceful assembly?
- Does an individual attending a family member's funeral constitute a "captive audience" who is entitled to state protection from unwanted communication?
Regardless of your feelings about any of the things that WBC claims to be protesting about, there is a human decency issue here. Matthew Snyder was 20 years old and his parents deserved a measure of privacy when burying their child. Note: No one has ever protested private or military funerals in recorded history.
I support free speech from a legal perspective. What I cannot condone is the use of the Constitution to disseminate hate. These are supposedly Christian people but appear to have forgotten the message of Christ which was love.