States Line Up Against Funeral Hecklers in Supreme Court Brief

Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church Picketed Iraq Marine’s Funeral; Count Must Decide if Protest Was Free Speech

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia are backing the family of fallen Marine Matthew Snyder in a pending U.S. Supreme Court case that could decide the constitutionality of laws restricting protests at private family funerals.

Westboro Baptist Church
The Westboro Baptist Church is a hate group masquerading as a Christian church.
Led by Fred Phelps, members of this ‘church’ — who have deluded themselves into thinking that they are followers of Jesus Christ — target homosexuals and others with messages of hate.
The Westboro cult is largely known for its despicable practice of picketing funerals.
Any group of people can call itself a ‘Baptist church’ even if, as is the case with this hate group, the vast majority of Baptists reject that group’s claims.
Theologically, the hate group’s extremist views and despicable behavior mark it as a cult of Christianity
Sociologically the group has cult-like elements as well
• Note: For obvious reasons we often file articles about this hate group under the heading of ‘Religious Insanity.’

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Lance Cpl. Snyder, who was deployed to Iraq in 2006, was killed just a month later in an accident. His funeral in Maryland was disrupted by demonstrators led by Kansas pastor Fred W. Phelps, yelling, among other things, that America’s military is evil because it defends a country that tolerates homosexuality.

Snyder’s family sued, but an appeals court said the hecklers were exercising their right to free speech.

Now, all but two state attorneys general have signed a “friend of the court” brief, to be filed tomorrow, that argues the First Amendment should not apply to some “intrusive and harassing” forms of expression.

“Funeral goers are a captive audience and they are engaged in a deeply personal and private mourning process,” said Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, who drafted the brief. “The Constitution does not give the respondent the right to hijack solemn proceedings such as funerals in order to spread their hateful ideas.”

The respondent, Phelps, has staged loud protests with members of his Westboro Baptist Church at military funerals around the country. He argues his signs, bearing messages such as “You’re in hell” and “God hates you,” are protected forms of speech.

Court observers called the near-universal state support for Snyder and funeral protest laws “exceptional” and say their brief will likely affect the justices when they weigh the case this fall. Only Maine and Virginia have withheld support for the “amicus curiae” brief.

But Phelps’ supporters, including his daughter Megan Phelps, say the states’ brief does not change the facts of the case or weaken their constitutional argument.
[…more…]

– Source / Full Story: States Line Up Against Funeral Hecklers in Supreme Court Brief, Devin Dwyer, ABC News, May 31, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday May 31, 2010.
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