Fred Phelps | Military | News | Religion | Shirley Phelps-Roper

Westboro Baptist Church Thumbs Nose at $11 Million Judgment


Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church will resume picketing the funerals of dead soldiers today despite the nearly $11 million judgment against them on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, a jury today awarded Albert Snyder $11 million in a case he brought against Rev. Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church after the church picketed the funeral of his son, who was slain in a vehicle accident in Anbar province in Iraq. It was the first case brought against the church for their protests at military funerals. Westboro Baptist claims that U.S. military deaths are God's punishment for a nation that tolerates homosexuals.

Said a press release from the church, which thanked God for the verdict: "We will continue to warn you of your impending doom as long as our God gives us breath. Not only did you fail to stop our preaching, but our message has gone to the entire world."

The Agence France-Presse reports: "The group's presence at the funerals of dozens of soldiers across the country has sparked a grassroots movement of bikers determined to drown out the jeers and taunts. While Westboro's congregation remains stable at around 70 to 100 people -- most of whom are the extended family of founder Fred Phelps -- the ranks of the Patriot Guard Riders has swelled to more than 117,000 in the past two years. If the Westboro protestors show up as planned at the funerals of Sergeant Scott Turner in Norton, Kansas and Staff Sergeant Larry Rougle in West Jordan, Utah on Friday, their signs will be masked by an honor guard of flag-waving bikers."

US anti-gay church to resume protests at funerals of soldiers [afp]

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  1. Hey we just need to act like these people are not here they use any coverage to exploit and spread there message of hate.

    Posted by: Jim | Nov 2, 2007 8:36:10 AM

  2. Frankly, I find it amazing that they haven't pushed someone over the edge at one of these funerals and been blow away.

    Posted by: Johnny Lane | Nov 2, 2007 8:38:11 AM

  3. My thoughts, exactly, Johnny.

    Posted by: Rad | Nov 2, 2007 9:35:28 AM

  4. 1. AFP = Agence France-Presse (French press agency), NOT "Associated Foreign Press." Andy, we've been over this before. :-)

    2. I wish those bikers had the balls to block the Phelps clan when they're protesting the funerals of gay men and other non-soldiers. Not to diminish their support for the soldiers, but it'd be nice if they helped other Phelps protest targets too.

    Posted by: tjc | Nov 2, 2007 9:58:10 AM

  5. From their perspective, why don't think they it's God's punishment for anything else? I guess tolerance of homosexuals is mankind's greatest sin.

    Posted by: | Nov 2, 2007 10:28:26 AM

  6. I agree with TJC.

    Posted by: Tintin Malfoy | Nov 2, 2007 10:34:00 AM

  7. Am I the only one who finds this decision troubling? I am no fan of Fred Phelps and his merry band of Neanderthals but this is a clear-cut infringement of Westboro's First Amendment rights to protest and peaceably assemble. (And, despite their hateful rhetoric, they do seem to assemble peaceably.)

    Granted, I do see how the father had a very strong case in civil court, but this ruling could open the door for almost anyone to go after protest groups: legitimate anti-war protesters, gay-rights groups, abortion and anti-abortion rights groups.

    Popular speech does not need protecting. It is protected by the sheer force of its popularity. It is unpopular speech that the First Amendment was designed to protect and that certainly includes the rights of this horrible organization. I can't believe I'm defending them but, as Jefferson once said, "I might not agree with what you have to say but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."

    Posted by: Mike | Nov 2, 2007 10:44:59 AM

  8. No, Mike, you're not the only one. I agree with you.

    Posted by: Gregg | Nov 2, 2007 12:07:31 PM

  9. I agree with Mike as well.

    The Fred Phelps people seem custom-made to test the Constitution. They don't represent anything other than their own nuttiness. Howard Stern had the best idea out there -- he put them on his Hollyweird Squares game and just laughed at them.

    Bigger picture -- I think people have gotten really lazy about defending their rights. The Constitution is there for a reason, not to just gather dust and be pointed at by tourists.

    Posted by: Peter | Nov 2, 2007 12:22:09 PM

  10. There was a prior thread on this two days ago. Check below for the link.

    Posted by: anon ( | Nov 2, 2007 12:37:01 PM

  11. I think that the freedom of speech and the right to free assembly are part of what makes this the greatest country in the world, despite it's many failures. I do not believe, however, that that extends to interfering with the rights of the individual in what is very clearly a personal moment. This was not a public event, this was not the site of an institution doing it's business. For me this is the line that may not be crossed where personal privacy is being trampled by public "good". I don't feel any differently about paparazzi harassing celebrities going about their private lives in their homes or on their property.

    I support this limitation on 1st Amendment rights just as I support anyone shouting out something, with conviction, that puts the public in peril ("fire" in a crowded theater, "it's a bomb" in a subway or airport)

    What I really don't understand here is why Albert Snyder and his attorney(s) didn't seek federal injunctive relief to bar these assholes from continuing this campaign in or around memorial services and burials. It has to stop! Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, deserves to have such a moment diminished in any way.

    Posted by: David B. | Nov 2, 2007 1:13:00 PM

  12. David B, I agree with you that no one deserves to have such a moment diminished in any way. But, when speaking of the legalities of the situation, what someone "deserves" comes in direct conflict with someone else's rights. Clearly, the court found that the family's right to privacy trumped the group's right to free speech.

    One thing you said was interesting: "This was not a public event, this was not the site of an institution doing its business." A cemetery is private property. If they were on the grounds of the cemetery, the owners of the property would have been well within their rights to bar their entry. Most of the time, these nut jobs protest outside of the cemeteries on the public right-of-way by the road, which makes the question very murky and, for me, turns this into a clear-cut case of First Amendment rights violations.

    Yes, the Supreme Court has previously ruled that yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre is not an action protected by the First Amendment. However (and I hope no one will think me hard-hearted for saying this), causing emotional pain to a grieving family does not come up to that level of public safety the Justices had in mind with that prior ruling. I cannot in any way see this as an acceptable limitation of First Amendment rights.

    They have a right to be assholes and unthinkably unsympathetic to grieving families.

    Posted by: Mike | Nov 2, 2007 3:19:29 PM

  13. Mike, it's more than what the grieving family "deserves," it's what they have a right to.

    They have a right to privacy, Phelps has a right to free speech. While I understand all the focus on the First Amendment issues in these threads, both parties here have rights that have come into conflict -- not just Phelps.

    This case wasn't solely about the First Amendment, it was about how to balance that against the rights of the family to privacy and to be left alone and unharmed at a very specific and vulnerable time.

    Phelps and his clan have a right to be assholes and unthinkably unsympathetic -- to a point. Eventually, however, they cross too far into the territory of other people's rights. There is always some kind of balance to be struck, even though we may disagree over where exactly it should be.

    Personally, I don't believe that our marketplace of ideas -- even tremendously unpopular ones -- suffers from placing reasonable time and distance restrictions between Phelps and a funeral service.

    Posted by: about time | Nov 5, 2007 12:02:30 AM

  14. you stupid bastards.... what drugs are you on? where do you come up with this bullshit? have you read the Kings James Version of the Bible? apparently NOT!!!!do you think soldiers want to be in the Bush mayhem? Nope! They do their jobs! Leave them alone!!!!! Respect the rights all have died for, past and present!

    Posted by: just jo | Nov 6, 2007 8:17:42 PM

  15. Mike- Not sure if you or anyone else will still read this chain, but I'm surprised no one else corrected you.

    "I disagree with what you say but will fight to the death for your right to say it"
    is a quote credited to Voltaire, not Jefferson. (Right century, wrong country.)

    Posted by: Jeff | Nov 15, 2007 3:01:17 PM

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