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Marine Dad Ordered to Pay Legal Fees of Those Disrupting Son's Funeral

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The father of a Marine killed in action in Iraq has been ordered to pay the legal costs of members of an anti-gay church whom he sued after they picketed his son's funeral, carrying placards bearing anti-homosexual epithets. The dad, Albert Snyder of Westminster, Md., called the ruling a "slap in the face."

"By the court making this decision, they're not only telling me that they're taking their side, but I have to pay them money to do this to more soldiers and their families," Snyder said, according to CNN.

It all stems from a legal battle that started after a handful of demonstrators from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., picketed outside the Maryland funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder with signs expressing such sentiments as "God hates you" and "Thank God for dead soldiers." The vitriol apparently had nothing to do with Snyder as an individual; church members have demonstrated at other events with similar signs. Founded by Pastor Fred Phelps, the church believes God is punishing the United States for "the sin of homosexuality" by allowing wars and soldiers' deaths.

Albert Snyder, horrified by the disruption, filed a federal lawsuit claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. He won at the first level and was awarded $10.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages. But the 4th District Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, saying Phelps and his people were protected by First Amendment free-speech rights. Then last week, the court ordered Snyder to pay more than $16,000 in legal fees accumulated by Westboro Baptist in defending itself. On his "O'Reilly Factor" cable show Tuesday night, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said he would write a personal check to cover the fees charged to Snyder.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in another test of how far the First Amendment can stretch in guaranteeing the right of free expression.

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Is there any fund set up for Mr. Snyder to assist him in paying the legal fees? There should be if the appeal does not change the overturned ruling. How sad for this family during a time of immense pain. Shame on anyone christian or not who would bring additional pain to any family in a crisis situation.

October 07 2010 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We were threatened with a picket by Fred Phelps & Co. when a transgender teen was killed and there was also a production of the Laramie Project at our high school. People rallied outside the church where the funeral was held, along with the "angels" from the play, and there was no appearance by the Phelps contingent. The school was not open during performances of the play, so you had to have a ticket to get inside the gates. There was a peaceful demonstration outside the gates by students, townspeople, and supporters of the family, and again Phelps did not show.
In my opinion, this church is basically a family-run hate business. They have no right to disrupt any family's funeral, be it a funeral for a young transgender person who hung out with the wrong people or that of a soldier who served his country. I think there has to be respect for the families who have lost loved ones, and that you should not show disrespect for the bereaved.

July 28 2010 at 2:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Matthew was my cousin. He was one of the sweetest kids around. He chose to be a Marine and to fight for our country. Matt was only 20 years old when he was killed in Iraq.
I consider myself a Christian person. These Westboro Baptists fools are no more christians than Satan is. It is beyond outrage that they would picket a fallen Marine at his funeral. It's not enough I guess to these WB pigs that a wonderful young man lost his life trying to protect our freedom, so they have to opening perform despicable acts of picketing and saying horrible things at the boy's funeral... of all places. I am utterly sickened that this is allowed to go on in front of our faces. I am also amazed that someone hasn't gotten ahold of Fred Phelps. I suppose (hopefully) it's just a matter of time.....

July 28 2010 at 1:18 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The recent ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeals ordering Mr. Snyder to pay $16,000 in court costs to the Westboro Baptist Church is outrageous. It sickens and saddens me that a learned group of individuals supposedly dedicated to the pursuit of justice could do such an INJUSTCE by allowing a gaggle of bigots carte blanche under the guise of first ammendment rights. The placards reading "Thank God for Dead Soldiers", and "God Hates You"......those are just so wrong...whose, or WHICH God are we talking about, anyway? The only Gods that celebrate or relish death are certainly NOT of a Christian does that, under first ammendment rights, give ME the right to suggest that these Westboro Baptists are perhaps a subversive religious terrorist group with instructions to instigate hate and create chaos with the help of a frightened American sector desperately seeking a cause?...makes sense to me.....perhaps they should be investigated by Homeland Security and viewed as a potential threat. A simple word or comment from the media could start the ball rolling on THAT one.......finally, on the media....kudos to Mr. O'Reilly for his generous gesture in picking up the tab for Mr. Snyder's legal fees. Now THAT is a compassionate and very Christian act of kindness.

July 18 2010 at 4:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ber1000's comment

These "church-goers" are obviously severely uneducated and whipped into a frenzy by anything that they deem evil. I wouldn't put it past them to be labeled terrorists since they seem to side ultimately with the Taliban. But they probably hate Islam, too. I myself never read anything in the Bible that said, "Thank God for dead soldiers". As a family member of a deceased Marine from Iraq, those people sicken me and I'm glad that they didn't show up at our funeral or I'd be paying a lawsuit for doing worse to them than Mr. Snyder did.

July 28 2010 at 12:00 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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