As shocking as it is the Westboro Baptist Church based in Kansas prevailed in the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Justices found that the First Amendment protects the church’s right to freedom of speech. The church has made a name for itself in picketing outside military funerals to draw attention to their belief that its God’s way of protesting America’s acceptance of homosexuality.
The Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision upheld an appeals court ruling that a York County father is not entitled to a $5 million judgement.
Albert Snyder sued Westboro after church members picketed his son’s, Matthew Snyder, funeral in 2006. Matthew, a marine, was killed while fighting in Iraq. Church members were equipped with signs that read “Thank God for dead soldiers,” ”You’re Going to Hell,” ”God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” and one that combined the U.S. Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi, with a slur against gay men.
A lower court awarded Albert Snyder, of York, Pennsylvania, an $11 million dollar judgement, which was later reduced to $5 million.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court.
“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, “and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous.”
Forty-eight states, 42 U.S. senators and veterans groups, supported Snyder, demanding the court shield funerals based on the Phelps family’s “psychological terrorism,” it endured.
That was balanced against a favorable outcome for Snyder, which would have destroyed free speech as we know it.
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