Father Of Dead Marine Ordered to Pay Legal Fees of Westboro Baptist Church Protesters

Mar 29, 2010 · 1985 views

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BALTIMORE — Lawyers for the father of a Marine who died in Iraq say a court has ordered him to pay legal costs for the anti-gay protesters who picketed his son’s funeral. The protesters are […]


  1. There are few things that can cause the bile in my stomach to rise, but after reading this, I feel nauseous. The fact that these monstrous people can intrude on a family’s private funeral, spread such an odious message before the young man’s loved ones, and then be awarded money for having to defend their actions in a court of law is almost beyond my comprehension. The judges who ruled in favor of the WBC in this matter are, in my opinion, worse than Phelps and his clan. The WBC is beyond reason… I expect appellate judges to have common sense and common decency. When the people who are meant to protect us from fanatics like the WBC cannot even do the right thing… I begin to truly fear that hope for this nation is lost.

  2. Sam says:

    Actually, the Westboro Baptist Church won for the following reason:

    1) The WBC staged their protest over 500 feet away from the Snyder funeral site, where nobody could see them.
    2) They left before the funeral had even begun.
    3) Mr. Snyder only found out that the WBC had picketed his son’s funeral weeks later, after watching a TV news report.

    If they had actually caused emotional distress to the family, they would have certainly lost their case. I agree that what the Westboro Baptist Church does is unpardonable, but as Shirley Phelps-Roper would say, they’re not stupid.

    • Yes, I’m sure that the weeks and weeks this was covered in the media caused no emotional stress to the family after the tragic loss of a son. Give me a break. I don’t give a shit if they held their protest a year later on fucking Pluto, if you are willing to destroy someone else’s memory of a loved one, by God you better be prepared to pay for it. The WBC are cowards who condemn the USA and yet hide behind the protection that same nation affords them.

  3. Sam says:

    Sure, but in that case, the Snyder family has no legal case against the Phelps family, since it was the media coverage that caused them the distress, not the actual protesting. The Snyder family didn’t sue MSNBC or FOX News, they sued the Church. From a legal perspective they haven’t got a case against them.

    While I think the WBC is abhorrent and disgusting, you can’t go to jail or be fined millions of dollars for speaking ill of somebody who’s dead. They were not anywhere near the funeral site, and they left before the family gathered to mourn.

    If this were the case hundreds of thousands of people would also have to go to jail for treating their gay relatives like shit when they succumbed to AIDS. People have the right to be assholes in a free country.

    • No legal case? I may not be a lawyer, but I’m pretty fucking certain that this is a case of defamation under current US libel law. The WBC published an essay on their website entitled, “The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder.” In the essay, statements indicated that Albert and his wife “raised [Matthew] for the devil,” “RIPPED that body apart and taught Matthew to defy his Creator, to divorce, and to commit adultery,” “taught him how to support the largest pedophile machine in the history of the entire world, the Roman Catholic monstrosity,” and “taught Matthew to be an idolater.”

      The courts, in their infinite wisdom, summarily dismissed the libel claim. The remaining counts were taken to trial and a JURY handed down a $10.9 million verdict against the WBC which was then halved by the Judge in the case. The WBC appealed this verdict and it was overturned by the appellate court.

      How you can champion this as a triumph for free speech is beyond me. All this goes to do is show every other wacko group out there that they can push even further and never be held accountable for their actions.

      • Sam says:

        You see, this is where the entire situation gets tricky. If you remove all the nasty, inflammatory language the WBC uses, as well as all of their personal opinions, that document doesn’t contain any factually incorrect information.

        Matthew Snyder was a Catholic and his parents were divorced. If the WBC adds inflammatory comments such as “they taught him to defy his Creator”, “..taught [him] to be an idolator,” “HE IS BURNING IN HELL” etc. no court in this country can penalize them. Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1971) set a Supreme Court precedent which states that nobody can be penalized for merely expressing a personal opinion, no matter how vile or inflammatory.

        In other words, your neighbor may sue you for libel if you say “John Doe sucks cocks in Hell, and he cheated on his wife with a cocker spaniel” (of course, if you have no proof that he screwed a cocker spaniel), but not if you say “John Doe sucks cocks in Hell, and he is full of shit”. There’s a key difference there.

        Again, I DESPISE what this church does. But it’s completely legal, all of it. The antidote to people abusing free speech is not censorship, but even more free speech.

  4. WBC is bat-s**t crazy, and deplorable at that.

    However, just because they say something we don’t like, doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to say it. Icky and awful as they are, sometimes that is the price of freedoms like the first amendment grant.

    As far as libel or emotional distress, I pretty much think Sam is correct. Sorry Heath – but libel is actually pretty specific requirements (just look at the famous case of Larry Flynt vs Jerry Falwell). Emotional distress is notoriously difficult to prove on its own (it’s usually tacked on with other, more substantial or tangible claims).

    I’m not defending their view point, only their right to express it. Luckily, the overwhelming majority of people (even anti-gay and anti-military people) agree that WBC is a bunch of lunatics.

  5. The way I understand the concept of freedom of speech in America, it seems to me the court was correct to dismiss the claim. Now, I am not sure about the court costs award – is it always awarded in the US from the winning to the losing party, or does it require special conditions to be present (such as the lawsuit being frivolous for example)?

  6. Marcin, they require special conditions to be present for loser-pays. I’m not sure of the legal wrangling there. I do know that the guy’s attorney is protesting the payment.

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