A group named Westboro Baptist makes it a point to protest funerals of fallen American soldiers, and judging from material on the group’s website, the gist of their theology seems to be hatred. They call themselves a church, but in my opinion, the god this congregation worships is 100 percent pagan—devoted to punishment, condemnation and destruction. By the way, I will not call them a church and I will not provide a link.
Whatever the twisted purpose, members of Westboro Baptist emerged temporarily victorious after a ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court on the matter of Snyder vs. Phelps, et al. The Court of Appeals reversed a judgment on behalf of Albert Snyder for damages after Snyder sued the self-proclaimed “church.” And now the Supreme Court has a agreed to a review.
As they had done many times at funerals of fallen soldiers, members of Westboro had protested the funeral of Snyder’s 20 year old son Matthew who died in an accident in Iraq while serving as a US Marine.
But the protest didn’t sate this group. Members then posted an essay, “The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder" on the group website.
The Citizen’s Media Law Project offers an example of the language in the essay: “Westboro Baptist…also posted an essay on its 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 idolator.’”
The Court of Appeals decided the Westboroites’ hate-filled statements fall under the protection of freedom of speech although it seems to me the statements may be defamatory. Are they true or not? A reader unaware might ask those questions. As a journalist I can attest there are readers who will allegedly read what you’ve written and completely misinterpret the content either because their comprehension is below par or as is more often the case, they do not read carefully.
It is easy to understand why Matthew’s father would need financial help with the lawsuit.
There is a Facebook page devoted to Snyder's cause, I Support Al Snyder in his Fight Against Westboro Baptist Church.
The Facebook group has more than 10,000 members. Even if you can't donate to Matthew's dad's legal fund, join the group and make a silent statement.
It is hard to understand where the Westboroites—fringe wingers if ever there were any—get the funds to travel the country and file lawsuits. That’d be an interesting investigation. Isn’t that expensive?
I hope their corporate documents are in order. Does Westboro Baptist enjoy tax breaks? Their sole purpose strikes me as political rather than spiritual, but then, I'm a Lutheran so I guess they'd classify me as a heathen along with just about every other major faith.
I’m not an attorney, so I can’t comment on the various court rulings with authority. I do, however, believe the essay posted on the self-proclaimed "church’s" website treads into defamatory speech.
In the Fourth Circuit opinion on Snyder's case, there’s a description of the Westboroites: “Defendant Fred W. Phelps, Sr., founded Defendant Westboro Baptist Church, Inc. in Topeka, Kansas, in 1955. For fifty-two years, he has been the only pastor of the church, which has approximately sixty or seventy members, fifty of whom are his children, grandchildren, or in-laws. Among these family members are Defendants Shirley L. Phelps-Roper and Rebekah A. Phelps-Davis. There are approximately ten to twenty members of the church who are not related to Phelps by blood or marriage. According to the testimony of Defendants’ expert, the members of this church practice a 'fire and brimstone' fundamentalist religious faith. Among their religious beliefs is that God hates homosexuality and hates and punishes America for its tolerance of homosexuality, particularly in the United States military.”
Nothing like being a single issue faith group made up mostly of members of a certain tribe, right? It is tempting here to ask if there are any 12-toed types among them, but that is admittedly a distraction and it is deliberately a snarkism, exercised within this commentary under protected rights of freedom of speech.
Whatever the legal implications, it’s hard to imagine a group that calls itself “Christian” devoting all its efforts to hatred.
This is a group of people who despise freedom and trample decency. Matthew’s father didn’t see the religious fanatics’ protest until after the funeral when he watched TV, but this would have certainly rekindled and exacerbated his grief. It's hard to imagine a man grieving the loss of a son who placed his life on the line for his country and being targeted for a venom-spitting group of people who enjoy the benefits of freedom protected by the same military they so despise.
Sad that a court would award a single dollar to a group whose sole purpose appears to be hatred. Their god is the pagan god of yore, punishing and penalizing man, rewarding only the myopic fringe wingers that belong to a man and his spawn who bring more darkness into a world where there is so much opportunity to bring light.
Makes you wish you could borrow a thunderbolt from Zeus and aim it with vengeance at a particular spot in Topeka. (commentary by Kay B. Day/March 30, 2010)