Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Westboro Watch

The Supreme court today heard from Albert Snyder regarding his suit against the Westboro Baptist Church in which he claimed extreme emotional distress and was awarded a judgment of $11million that was then reduced to $5 million. The judgment was subsequently overturned by an appellate court, hence the appearance of both parties in front of the Supreme Court.

Please, if you would, read the AP story here, then we can discuss!

I find some of the Justices' comments interesting and more than a little surprising. For example...

"Alito led Phelps through a series of questions intended to get her to concede that there are instances in which people could file lawsuits like Snyder's, including an African-American who is subjected to a stream of racial hatred from someone who believes blacks are inherently inferior.

'That's a matter of public concern?' Alito asked.

Phelps wavered, saying that race is an issue of public concern, but that church members do not approach people 'to berate them.' She said the protest at the funeral had the permission of the police and involved only holding up signs."

I have always sided with the 1st Amendment regarding the crazy kids down at the WBC and believed that, for all of their nuttiness, they've got a right to do what they do, but the Court might be wavering. Most surprising...

"Chief Justice John Roberts and Justives Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia appeared, to varying degrees, to be searching for a way to rule for Snyder."

The fact that conservatives such as Roberts and Scalia are leaning away from the church gives rise to the notion that the Court may, in fact, rule for Mr. Snyder, or at least send the case down for a retrial. Astonishing.

I did hear Mr. Snyder's attorney interviewed a few months back and he raised the idea of a "captive audience." What he meant by that was that because Mr. Snyder had to bury his son, and had to do so at a particular time and place, and that the WBC's actions were tantamount to entrapment. It was as if Mr. Snyder rights were violated as he was not given the choice to avoid the protest. He was, in essence, a captive audience.

It was an interesting argument. Anyway, the decision is expected until late spring.


  1. The captive audience is a good argument, though if the man had not published the time, date and place of the funeral allowing only for friends and relatives to learn through a phone tree of some kind, they would have perhaps not really been captive.

    I believe in free speech. I do not believe this is a free speech issue as it works out to be a hate crime.

  2. Charlene - It might be safe to assume that such a funeral would have been well publicized. Even a simple obituary would stand up as sufficient notification.

    It's tough, no doubt. I would scramble for any argument other than "hate crime." Too Orwellian for me.

    Excellent comment, Thanks!

  3. Look....these fundamentalist religious freaks have a right to an opinion, but not a right to inflict it on the rest of us. Maybe we should all get a lesson on Jesus...who, by the way, was the epitome of love and acceptance. Why some modern Christians have abandoned these concepts is beyond me. Do you think that people in the Middle East sit around blaming centuries of war and misfortune on gays? I highly doubt it.

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  5. And P.S. I HIGHLY disagree with the comment about publicizing the funeral. This person died for our country. Why wouldn't that be both publicized and honored. Perhaps, in a time of absolute despair, it becomes difficult to rely on the phone tree method. Again, these people can think whatever they like, but I am quite certain they would not appreciate such activity at one their loved ones' funerals.
    Again, Jesus preached love and acceptance. Not hatred and finger pointing.

    Romans 15:7- Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

  6. Well, I for one think that the Baptists had every right to voice their opinion, which I happen to agree with. Our country is falling due to the sinners who refuse to turn to reform. If you want to be a sinner, let the fruit of your sins fall on yourself. All of you should move to an island for homos and leave the rest of us alone.

  7. There was a time when a soldier's sacrifice really meant something. And, I am discouraged to see this type of squabbling. We should be honoring the sacrifice of this young man, who died for the sake of our country.

    As for the religious element, in my opinion, Jesus would have consoled the grieving family, not picketed the funeral. He would have shown compassion and respect for a life lost, and encouraged others to pray for the young man's passage into Heaven.

  8. Lizzardo - It would be hard to envision Jesus picketing a funeral, holding a sign that reads "God Hates Fags"

    Irving - that last paragraph was eloquent and moving.